Friday, July 20, 2012

A Movie You Might Have Missed: 30

This film is a luminous masterpiece that is an art movie in every sense of the word.

 30. The Mill and the Cross

Painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Rutger Hauer) explains the meaning of his painting, The Procession to Calvary,  to his patron (Michael York) from within the painting itself. That is the description from the back of the DVD case which gripped my imagination and made me take it home. We were not disappointed. As Roger Ebert said, "If you see no more than the opening shots, you will never forget them."

This is an art movie in every sense of the word. Dialogue is spare, the pace is deliberate, and sometimes it can be difficult to tell where real life ends and the painting begins. Those elements contribute to this movie's power, as we are introduced to a dozen of the over 500 characters in the painting in an extraordinary blend of live action and special effects. As the artist imagines them coming to life with a new morning, we follow the characters to their eventual inclusion within the art. With careful scene framing and lighting as luminous as that of any painting, we truly felt as if we were within a painting.

Most of what I have said would not actually tempt me to watch the film. It must be experienced and is very difficult to describe. It came to my attention after being recommended as a contemplative piece during Lent by Joseph Sousanka, but I think this film stands on its own as a unique piece of art which anyone may appreciate. It certainly should fascinate anyone interested in the making or appreciation of either art or films.

You will either love it or hate it, but you will not forget it. (And then you'll go to a museum.)

Pieter Bruegel's The Way to Calvary
via Wikipedia


  1. It appears to be on youtube.

    And it is a Polish film!

    1. Yes! The director is so well respected that Michael York and Rutger Hauer just immediately said yes when he asked, without even knowing exactly what they were going to do. I forgot your Polish connection!

      I'm not sure how Youtube will do at taking viewers "into the painting" but let me know! :-)