Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"The Mill and the Cross" by Lech Majewski

Rutger Hauer as "Peasant Pieter (the Elder) Bruegel

Rutger Hauer, Lech Majewski, and Michael Yorke,
during the making of "The Mill and the Cross"



The Way to Calvary by Pieter Bruegel

There is no melodrama or biopic flourishes in Lech Majewski's beautiful and estimable "The Mill and the Cross." The film stars Rutger Hauer, Charlotte Rampling and Michael Yorke, and they are terrific, but the film's true power comes from the vision of director Majewski, as he explores Pieter Bruegel and in particular the painter's "Way to Calvary". That work by the elder Bruegel, known as "Peasant Pieter" for his practice of dressing in more common garb so he could travel among the peasant folk and observe them, depicts the passion of Christ in the context of country life in Flanders in 1564, at a time when the people were under the brutal occupation of the Spanish, who sought to suppress the Protestant Reformation.

As the prodiction notes state: "The film changes the way art is portrayed on film, pioneering a new method to “enter” a painting and to create a narrative based on its depicted figures, performed by live actors. Majewski's method consists of combining digitally shot footage in three different ways:
· actors shot in front of a blue screen, which is integrated later with various backdrops
· actors and footage shot on location in Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria and New Zealand on specifically chosen
  landscapes resembling those found in Bruegel’s paintings
· a large 2D backdrop of Bruegel's work painted on canvas by Majewski

In post-production, Majewski and his editor painstakingly layered these various elements. For example, he added an actor shot in front of a blue screen to several layers of both painted backdrops and location footage, enhanced by digital footage of a majestic sky shot in New Zealand. This process allowed the filmmaker to act as a painter himself."

The music, the stunning visuals, and the depiction of the quiet and earthy country life, melded with the subdued brutality,
create a rivoting and beautiful film. All things considered, the film's languid, countrified pace may be slow for some viewers, but the director (writer of the original screenplay for Julian Schnabel's Basquiat) has done a masterful job in wresting a
simple narrative from just the painting and a few fragments of art history and the painter's bio.

Once again, this viewer can't help but admire any artist who is unafraid to challenge the tyranny of modernity, at the same time taking creative leaps of faith . One needs only to allow Majewski's vision to establish the parameters of a new old world, and sit back in wonder at what film as art -- and art as film for that matter -- can achieve.

--Anthony Napoli for Deep in the Heart of Brooklyn

Storyboard fragments here

More from the official site here

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