Many filmmakers have had their works described as “painterly,” but few deserve that designation as much as Lech Majewski’s visually ravishing “The Mill and the Cross.”
Nearly every frame seems lifted from a museum wall and it’s a film that’s actually based on a painting: “The Way to Cavalry,” by the 16th century Flemish artist Pieter Brugel the Elder.
“Cavalry” is a large work, with some 500 figures, capturing a glimpse of village life in Flanders as seen through the prism of the era’s religiosity and political allegory. Rutger Hauer is Brugel himself, seeking to express the life he sees around him on canvas. That life includes the workaday innocence of the miller and his wife living in a windmill high above the plain and a husband and wife going to market with their calf. But it’s all set against a backdrop of Spanish troops inflicting torture and abuse on the local population and a Christ-like figure trudging with his cross to his execution.