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Saturday, March 03, 2012

The Mill and the Cross



This week's movie rental was The Mill and the Cross ....

a 2011 drama film directed by Lech Majewski and starring Rutger Hauer, Charlotte Rampling and Michael York. It is inspired by Pieter Bruegel the Elder's 1564 painting The Procession to Calvary, and based on Michael Francis Gibson's book The Mill and the Cross ... The film focuses on a dozen of the 500 characters depicted in Bruegel's painting. The theme of Christ's suffering is set against religious persecution in Flanders in 1564.

The movie is visually extraordinary. It begins with a real life representation of the artist's painting, and then shows experiences of some of the people in the painting, incliding Jesus. There's hardly any dialogue, which probably contributes to the eeriness. I'm afraid that I wasn't able to watch the whole thing: fairly early on we meet a young couple and their little calf, and me being me I worried from then on about the calf coming to an untimely end, but it was the young man who was so shockingly done in .... Catholic/Spanish soldiers whip and beat him brutally, tie him to a cartwheel, and hoist it up on a tree trunk to allow birds to peck out his eyes as his wife weeps down below (and what happened to the calf!?).



I quit watching at this point, though I did fast-forward to the crucifixion scene. There's a bit in the Wikipedia page about the painting that says ... In Bruegel's day public executions were well attended occasions which had the air of festivals or carnivals. Here Bruegel shows the absolute indifference of the gawping crowds to the fear and misery of the condemned men. This is Pinker's theory - a lack of empathy in people of the past. I'm not sure I buy this belief, but the film certainly follows the painting in representing a nearly universal lack of empathy in the characters shown, which I found really disturbing. Perhaps what made it seem worse (to me) was the beauty with which all this was portrayed.

This isn't to say the movie isn't worth a watch - Roger Ebert gave it four stars. Here's the beginning of his review ....

The Mill and the Cross
BY ROGER EBERT / October 19, 2011

Here is a film before which words fall silent. "The Mill & the Cross" contains little dialogue, and that simple enough. It enters into the world of a painting, and the man who painted it. If you see no more than the opening shots, you will never forget them. It opens on a famous painting, and within the painting, a few figures move and walk. We will meet some of those people in more detail.

The painting is "The Way to Calvary" (1564), by the Flemish master Pieter Bruegel the Elder. We might easily miss the figure of Christ among the 500 in the vast landscape. Others are going about their everyday lives. That's a reminder of Bruegel's famous painting "Landscape With the Fall of Icarus," about which Auden wrote of a passing ship "that must have seen something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky, had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on." Extraordinary events take place surrounded by ordinary ones ......


Here's the trailer ...




4 Comments:

Blogger Deacon Denny said...

This REALLY seems interesting to me. I've never heard of the movie or the painting. Sounds like it'd be worth looking at...

2:49 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

It's not rated, maybe because it's foreign made, but I should mention that there's nudity, sex, and violence. I'm always afraid I'll recommend something and people will watch it and be horrified :) The look of it is really amazing, though.

3:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This movie is disgusting and my stomach hurts just watching the first 15 or so minutes. I'm so glad I stopped as the young man was getting beaten up and I did not see the rest of it. I feel sick. I had to watch this movie for a class. I stopped it to see if I could get some connections to themes online before I started to watch the rest of it and I'm so glad I happened on this blog because I probably would not have been able to sleep for the next week had I continued for a couple more minutes into the movie. Thank you...

6:33 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Thanks for the comment. I was able to watch it just a little longer than you, to the part right after they beat him up - watching birds eat his eyes was the last straw - yuck!

12:22 AM  

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