The Mill and the Cross

2011

The Mill and the Cross (2011)

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What would it be like to step inside a great work of art, have it come alive around you, and even observe the artist as he sketches the very reality you are experiencing? Lech Majewski brings to life Pieter Bruegel's masterpiece The Way to Calvary, the story of the crucifixion, setting it in 16th century Flanders under brutal Spanish occupation. Rutger Hauer plays the artist, Michael York his patron, and Charlotte Rampling the Virgin Mary. As epic events unfold, bawdy country living continues unabated: couples entwine, musicians play wind instruments, soldiers torment their enemies mercilessly, and children scurry about. Using sophisticated computer technology, the filmmaker creates a brilliantly complex and fascinating multi-layered dreamscape that melds iconic moments in art, history, and religion with the quotidian lives of ordinary people. -- (C) Kino Lorber

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Critic Reviews for The Mill and the Cross

All Critics (41) | Top Critics (18)

We almost feel that we ourselves have accomplished something just by being around while Bruegel doodled.

Jun 19, 2013 | Full Review…

"The Mill and the Cross" might not be perfect, but it's stimulating, hypnotic and, in its unique way, exciting.

Jan 19, 2012 | Rating: B+ | Full Review…
Detroit News
Top Critic

The Mill and the Cross may thrill you. But be prepared for a fight. Twenty minutes in, your companion may throw up his or her arms and complain, "This is like watching a painting dry."

Nov 11, 2011 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

The Mill & the Cross invites us to inhabit a work of art along with the mind of the man who made it and to be enthralled by the images shared in vivid tableaux by visionary Polish director Lech Majewski.

Nov 10, 2011 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

What hangs before us is so striking, beautiful, strange, vast, horrifying, ethereal, lifelike - so alive - that we're desperate to enter the other side of the canvas, to be inside the painting.

Oct 20, 2011 | Rating: 3.5/4

If you see no more than the opening shots, you will never forget them.

Oct 20, 2011 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Mill and the Cross

½

What a truly remarkable accomplishment in terms of jaw-dropping visuals, but the problem is that Cinema is not Painting, and so Majewski is unable to transpose the symbolism of Bruegel's work to the screen without relying on an expository explanation of his intentions.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

½

This unusual art movie illustrates the story behind Pieter Bruegel's 1564 painting "The Way to Calvary," describing the stories of some of the characters who appear in the sprawling picture, examining Bruegel's strategy in composing the canvas, and sometimes using the actual painting as a backdrop to the action. It's done with love and skill, but honestly, sometimes it's like watching paint dry; this would have been excellent at 1 hour. By playing Bruegel, Rutger Hauer became the first actor in history to portray a 16th Century Flemish painter and a hobo with a shotgun in the same year.

Greg S
Greg S

Super Reviewer

What would it be like to step into a great work of art and experience the lives on the people within? That's the idea behind The Mill and the Cross a languid recreation of "The Way to Calvary, the 1564 masterpiece by Painter Pieter Bruegel. Throughout the film we often see the Flemish renaissance artist painting the scene. But most of the action takes place inside the composition as we observe the community within. It's an interesting concept, beautifully presented, but the sluggish pace is just too lethargic to enjoy. The notion of transforming a painting into a moving picture is an ambitious idea. Unfortunately there simply isn't enough drama to justify the movie. There's scarcely any dialogue. What little there is, is rather awkward and clumsily spoken. The story merely lies there to be appreciated much as a painting would be. The problem, this isn't a painting, but a film where different rules apply. The entire exercise feels academic. The actual painting currently hangs in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, Austria. Indeed it would be much more dramatic to gaze upon the actual artwork for 96 minutes than to watch this boring artistic study. I will admit the movie would make the perfect DVD to sell in the gift shop there, or any art gallery for that matter. As art history, the film is visually incredible, but as a cinematic entertainment, it fails.

Mark Hobin
Mark Hobin

Super Reviewer

In "The Mill and The Cross," the day starts like any other, centuries past in Flanders, as people go about their business and the mill which stands over everything begins operations. Children are cared for and animals are tended to. The calm is broken by the Spanish militia who randomly brutally beat a man to death before hoisting his body to the top of a pole while his wife cries out below. Nicolaes Jonghelinck(Michael York), a leading citizen and banker, is angry but is helpless against something that is not an isolated incident, as the Spanish are targeting heretics. So, he commissions a religious painting from Pieter Bruegel(Rutger Hauer) that has a hidden meaning. On the surface, "The Mill and the Cross" is an interesting blend of art history and European history with a striking visual style, especially in the early internal shot of the mill. However, the idea never fully comes to life, even with Rutger Hauer and Charlotte Rampling present, forgetting that this is supposed to be a motion picture. By comparison, "Rembrandt's J'Accuse" was much more invigorating.

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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