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The Mill and the Cross

Rutger Hauer in The Mill and the Cross
Tuesday November 1st, 2011

Pieter Bruegel the Elder was a great Flemish 16th century painter known mostly for his beautiful landscapes depicting the harsh reality of life. In The Mill and the Cross Lech Majewski has set out to create a unique film experience and capture Bruegel in the moment of creation of one of his great works of protest. The Procession to Calvary was painted in 1564 in Flanders while under Spanish domination. Rutger Hauer is "Peasant Bruegel" who lived amongst the poor and was horrified by the conditions he saw including brutal attacks by occupying red-shirted soldiers of Spain's Catholic monarchy against heretics in the villages. He decided to design a landscape painting that would combine these persecutions with a depiction of the crucifixion of Christ to make one grand statement against the abuse of power.

The cinematography by Majewski and Jozef Skrzek beautifully recreates these events as if we were seeing them as Bruegel saw them when he put brush to canvas. Charlotte Rampling continues to build on her succession of good character roles like Miss Emily in 2010's severely under-appreciated Never Let Me Go. Here she is the mother of a victim of Spanish oppression. Michael York is an observer who wonders if Bruegel can find a way to make posterity grasp the wretched conditions of their time. I think we can all agree he did.