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Film / The Mill And The Cross

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The Mill and the Cross is a 2011 film by Polish filmmaker Lech Majewski. It is based on Pieter Bruegel the Elder's painting "The Way to Calvary" and depicts scenes from the lives of the Loads and Loads of Characters in it.

We see a young man arrested and executed by red shirted mercenaries (presumably because he is a protestant), travelling rogues and musicians, and a miller who watches everything from his heaven-like vantage point on top of a massive crag. We also see the crucifixion, and hear reflections from the Virgin Mary.

In between, we hear conversations between Bruegel (played by Rutger Hauer) and his patron (Michael York), discussing the composition and meanings of the picture.


This film provides examples of:

  • Age Lift: Bruegel was about 40 when he painted "The Way to Calvary", and died at the age of 44. Rutger Hauer was 67 when the film came out.
  • Alone in a Crowd: Bruegel and his patron discuss the fact that Christ himself is hard to spot in the middle of all the figures when first viewing the picture. A close look actually reveals that he is the focal point of the whole scene, with the crowds radiating from him in lines, like the strands of a cobweb.
  • Anachronism Stew: 16th century peasant life side by side with episodes from the New Testament, invoked intentionally by Bruegel.
  • Eye Scream: The young man whose body is tied to a wheel and placed on top of a pole, courtesy of some crows.
  • The Movie: A rare example of a painting adapted to film.
  • Reality Subtext: In-Universe, it is made clear that Bruegel is depicting the "Roman" soldiers executing Jesus as Spanish mercenaries. He is criticising the political realities of his own time and place.
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  • Scenery Porn
  • Show Within a Show: In this case, a painting within a film brought to life.


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