Monday, December 5, 2011

The Mill and the Cross. A

The Mill and the Cross is not an immersive viewing experience. Though visually magnificent, it is not a film that hypnotically takes you into its world. Rather it's a movie to be seen from a distance and scrutinized to discern its extreme detail and weaving narrative-much like looking at an artwork in a museum. And alas, Lech Majewski's film is indeed based off Pieter Bruegel's painting The Way to Calvary. Bruegel's piece is a detailed reworking of Christ's crucification, bringing the setting to Flanders and filling the landscape with mystery, subtlety, and awe. Majewski then sets out to bring various lives of the 500 people in the painting to life as well as well present the actual Bruegel (played marvelously by Rutger Hauer) in the foreground of all the action. At a time when crucifixions were of prevalence, Bruegel sees a parallel between his time and the time of Christ. Majewski takes liberation in weaving in his own narratives as well, but he does it in subtle ways as to keep the events in the film a mystery until the end. But be warned, this is not a film with a plot or with characters to relate to (though Majewski does do a good job of bringing out real emotions in tragic situations). In fact, its main draw is its original visual methods, which cannot be described, but when seen will not be forgotten. Majewski uses blue screen, paintings, real locations, and CGI to create an unprecedented visual feast. At the center of the film is the mill, a massive structure built upon a rock that, according to Bruegel, represents God. And Majewski shoots it as such, creating complicated, at times nauseating compositions of the mill to generate its magnificence. The Mill and the Cross is one of the strangest movies you will ever see, but also one of the most visually beguiling, thoughtful, and original. There is nothing else like it. Here is one of the year's finest.

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