starring Rutger Hauer, Charlotte Rampling, Michael York, Oskar Huliczka
screenplay by Michael Francis Gibson & Lech Majewski
directed by Lech Majewski
by Angelo Muredda The opening voiceover in Polish-American filmmaker and painter Lech Majewsi's dry but compelling The Mill and the Cross nicely prepares us for both the fastidiousness and the playfulness that follows. "I want to do something about their clothing," Flemish painter Pieter Bruegel, a droll Rutger Hauer, says as he surveys a handful of the 500-odd subjects that populate his bustling 1564 painting "The Way to Calvary." At this point it's still a work-in-progress, a living tableau of Christ's crucifixion filtered through the artist's critique of the Spanish occupation of the Netherlands. Depriving us of the panorama that comprises the finished artwork, Majewski offers only a limited frontal view of the wailing women in the foreground, embodied by actresses who stand in stark relief against the computer-generated backdrop of the painting. As the camera tracks alongside them, it gets snagged, in a manner of speaking, on their dresses: it halts its procession so that Bruegel himself can enter the painting as a makeshift costume designer, fussing over their fabrics and setting the gravity of the scene through his sartorial choices. It's a smart statement of purpose, announcing Bruegel's and Majewski's simultaneous interest in the particular and the allegorical, and placing the film at various crossroads--between, for instance, art history lesson and dramatic recreation, and, more interestingly, between artifice and accident.