Bruegel The Elder, The Mill, The Cross…

Pieter Bruegel

The Procession to Calvary is an oil-on-panel by Flemish renaissance artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder of Christ carrying the Cross set in a large landscape, painted in 1564. It is in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.

Bruegel’s paintings seem to possess this mystic quality — a desire to step into them, walk on their painted landscapes, mixing with a crowd, looking from the inside at how people lived then. The director  Lech Majewski of THE MILL AND THE CROSS did just that.

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Pieter Bruegel’s The Procession to Calvary recreated by Lech Majewski in “The Mill and the Cross”

THE MILL AND THE CROSS is a “film of great beauty and attention” (Roger Ebert) that stunningly recreates one of the great masterpieces of painting, Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s “The Way to Calvary.”
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Pieter Bruegel (played by Rutger Hauer) is inside the picture, too,while busy painting it.

The Mill and the Cross

The story of Christ’s passion is far removed from his native place  as well as his historical time.  Many painters thought nothing of transplanting biblical figures in “historically unauthentic surroundings,” dressing them in appropriate clothes from their own epoch, seldom without some underlying agenda.

Christ never appears in the film, but there is Mary (Charlotte Rampling).

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Mary, played by Charlotte Rampling in a sunning preformance.

It’s not easy to find Jesus staggering beneath the crucifix he carries in the teeming crowds in the landscape; surrounding the procession are hundreds of local characters, most unaware of the world-shaking event about to occur.The Mill, standing on a hill in the film becomes a symbol of the Time, its steady, leisurely, never-ending cycle that grinds it all to dust.

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In “Calvary” he shifted the Crucifixion to his own age; it isn’t Roman soldiers marching Jesus to Golgotha, it is red-jacketed Spanish militiamen, then occupying the Low Countries and waging a brutal repression of the Protestant Reformation.
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The opinions of the viewing public differed greatly from:

“this film, unique, fascinating, disturbing, beautiful…challenging and beguiling especially for any art and history lover,” and:

“Absolutely mesmerizing. You hate to leave the theater, to break the spell that has so beautifully created a world you’ve entered into. More, more, more like this” to:  

Why is everybody so enthusiastic? Yes, the thing is visually interesting – but for 10, 20 minutes at most. Then one starts wondering why one should be inflicted cruel scenes, kids senselessly running around as though mentally disturbed, mixed up random everyday scenes, and all without a shred of dialogue, save some pompous exchanges between Bruegel and his protector.” 

Indeed, watching this film is no escape, but nearly physical participation in the birth of great art. One can watch the film in its entirety free on vimeo.com or right here.

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One comment on “Bruegel The Elder, The Mill, The Cross…

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