The Mill and the Cross (Kino Lorber) is a thoughtful and visually inventive investigation into the story behind Pieter Bruegel’s legendary painting “The Way to Calvary.” Directed by Polish filmmaker Lech Majewski, starring Rutger Hauer as Bruegel and co-starring Charlotte Rampling and Michael York, it’s a real multinational production with a riveting mix of classical filmmaking and modern technology. Majewski uses CGI to place actors within Bruegel’s paintings and layer live action in painterly compositions, both as a way to explore the creative process and as illustration and commentary on the social and political reality of Spanish-ruled Flanders that inspired Bruegel. While this unusual layering of textures collapses the space between real life and artistic recreation, Majewski contrasts it with hearty scenes of life in 16th century Flanders (which inspired many of the artist’s greatest works).
It’s an ingenious and illuminating mix of art history, political commentary, historical recreation, and creative fancy, a way to deconstruct and analyze a work of art and contemplate the inspiration and artistic method of a European master in a visually creative and involving way. See more reviews here. On Blu-ray and DVD, with the making-of featurette “The World According to Bruegel” and a video interview with director Lech Majewski.