“THE MILL & THE CROSS” – Film director Lech Majewski brings 16th Century masterpiece to life

Now through October 6th at the Landmark Embarcadero Center and Shattuck Cinemas

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Sean Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

Pieter Bruegel’s epic masterpiece The Way To Calvary depicts the story of Christ’s Passion set in Flanders under brutal Spanish occupation in the year 1564, the very year Bruegel created his painting. From among the more than five hundred figures that fill Bruegel’s remarkable canvas, THE MILL & THE CROSS focuses on a dozen characters whose life stories unfold and intertwine in a panoramic landscape populated by villagers and red-caped horsemen. Among them are Bruegel himself (Rutger Hauer), his friend and art collector Nicholas Jonghelinck (Michael York), and the Virgin Mary (Charlotte Rampling).

THE MILL & THE CROSS invites the viewer to reconstruct from Bruegel’s preparatory drawings the deeper meaning of scenes. Following the painter’s hints sketched on paper, the viewer pieces together an epic story of courage, defiance and sacrifice, and, like a detective on a path of clues, succeeds in reading the hidden language of symbols.

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PIETER BRUEGEL. The Way to Calvary. (1564)

Bruegel was, and still is, the wisest philosopher among the painters. In most of his works he took pains to hide the obvious by planting distractions somewhere else. The hidden should be palpable – that was his stratagem for showing the quintessence of suffering. Namely, that nobody cares about it. The sufferer is left alone, abandoned, forgotten… The others have to live their lives and somehow make the most out of it.

There are other themes in the film as well: That only an artist can stop time, capture the moment and immortalise it. Or that the elements that build a single image hanging in a museum can be plentiful. But nothing is more important than that the hidden is the essence of Truth.

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RUTGER HAUER (as Pieter Bruegel)

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CHARLOTTE RAMPLING (as Mary)

With his latest feature film The Mill & The Cross, director Lech Majewski changes the way art is portrayed on film, pioneering a new method to “enter” a painting and to create a narrative based on its depicted figures, performed by live actors. Majewski’s method consists of combining digitally shot footage in three different ways:

• actors shot in front of a blue screen, which is integrated later with various backdrops
• actors and footage shot on location in Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria and New
Zealand on specifically chosen landscapes resembling those found in Bruegel’s
paintings
• a large 2D backdrop of Bruegel’s work painted on canvas by Majewski

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The Mill & The Cross

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DIRECTOR LECH MAJEWSKI and MICHAEL YORK (as Nicholas Jonghelinck)

In post-production, Majewski and his editor layered these various elements, i.e., adding an actor shot in front of a blue screen to several layers of both painted backdrops and location footage, enhanced by digital footage of a majestic sky shot in New Zealand. This process allowed the filmmaker to act as a painter himself.

One of today’s most adventurous and inspired artists and filmmakers, Lech Majewski translates The Way to Calvary into cinema, inviting the viewer to live inside the aesthetic universe of the painting as we watch it being created. As various lives evolve within the film frame, we witness Bruegel capturing shards of their desperate stories on his canvas-in-the-making. Confronting the Spanish inquisition bloodily repressing the rise of Protestant reform in the Low Countries, the film offers a vibrant meditation on art and religion as ongoing, layered processes of collective storytelling and reinterpretation. THE MILL & THE CROSS is also a feast of stunning visual effects, a provocative allegory and a cinematic tour de force on religious freedom and human rights.

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The Mill & The Cross



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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.

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