Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Mill and the Cross

In "The Mill and the Cross", director Lech Majewski literally transports inside of Pieter Bruegel's 1564 painting "The Way to Cavalry", which depicts a Christlike crucifixion in the Danish countryside set during the Spanish Inquisition. We witness the day to day goings-on of the villagers, while we see the Spanish invader's atrocities and events leading up to the execution, which includes a local bishop (Michael York) commissioning Bruegel (Rutger Hauer) to complete the very tableau which they are inhabiting. "The Mill and the Cross" is a film of awe-inspiring beauty based on an interesting concept that relies completely on its visuals and not at all on its plot. The film itself is plodding and we are given very little about the many characters who inhabit the village. Even more prominent figures such as Hauer, York, and Charlotte Rampling as the Virgin Mother are poorly fleshed out. Even so, it is impossible not to be taken by the beauty of this film, which is one of the great visual wonders of recent years. I was reminded of Powell and Pressburger's "Black Narcissus", another indescribably beautiful film that seems to share the same filming techniques. "The Mill and the Cross" is a gorgeous film that could have been a masterpiece had as much time been invested in characters and story as were in the visuals.