Lech Majewski’s acclaimed 2011 film The Mill and the Cross transcends artistic categorization, a work of 21st-century digital cinema that resurrects a 16th-century painting, Pieter Bruegel’s masterpiece The Way to Calvary. Re-staging the painting with its cast of hundreds while blending actual landscape footage with hand-painted recreations of Bruegel’s canvas, the film is an unprecedented blend of cinema, painting, theater, and scholarship. As film scholar Kristin Thompson remarked upon seeing the film, “What makes The Mill and the Cross so exciting is that it achieves that rarest of things, making us feel that we are seeing something very worthwhile that has never been done before.”
Yet those familiar with Majewski’s filmography may notice in The Mill and the Cross certain motifs and methods from his past works. This video essay makes a side-by-side comparison of The Mill and the Cross and Majewski’s 1998 film, The Roe’s Room, which happens to be his first film shot on high-definition digital video, and is also available on Fandor. Adapted from a stage opera written and produced by the multi-talented Majewski, The Roe’s Room also features a very painterly sensibility with its precise compositions and delicate visual textures all set in cinematic motion.
Read the rest of this essay on Fandor.
Kevin B. Lee is Editor in Chief of IndieWire’s PressPlay Video Blog and contributor to Roger Ebert.com. Follow him on Twitter.