The Mill and the Cross

March 18, 2011 0 By Fans
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The Mill and the CrossThe Mill and the CrossStill of Rutger Hauer in The Mill and the CrossStill of Lech Majewski in The Mill and the Cross

Behind every great painting lies an even greater story

Release Year: 2011

Rating: 6.9/10 (974 voted)

Critic's Score: 80/100

Lech Majewski

Stars: Rutger Hauer, Charlotte Rampling, Michael York

Writers: Michael Francis Gibson, Lech Majewski


Rutger Hauer

Pieter Bruegel

Charlotte Rampling


Michael York

Nicolaes Jonghelinck

Joanna Litwin

Marijken Bruegel

Dorota Lis

Saskia Jonghelinck

Oskar Huliczka

Musician playing a horn

Marian Makula


Behind every great painting lies an even greater story


Official Website:
Official site |
Official site [Japan] |

Release Date: 18 March 2011

Filming Locations: Debno, Malopolskie, Poland

Opening Weekend: $11,354
(18 September 2011)
(1 Screen)

Gross: $310,900
(5 February 2012)

Technical Specs



A few minutes before the end of the movie, a red automobile crosses the background between two houses, while Bruegel and Nicholas Jonghelinck are speaking in the foreground.

User Review

A film inside of a painting; Up close and personal with 16th century Flanders

Rating: 8/10

The Mill and the Cross is a movie inside of a painting, specifically
The Way to Calvary (1564) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Pieter Bruegel
(Rutger Hauer) is the main character in the film which takes turns
following him as he decides how his painting will take shape and who
will be in it and also follows the local peasants who go about their
daily business in middle of 16th century Flanders. The background is
always the actual painting's background with the mill high up on a rock
looking down on a large field where most of the action occurs.

Bruegel's patron is Nicolaes Jonghelinck (Michael York), a successful
Flemish banker who spends his time learning from Bruegel about the
people in the painting and what each section represents and also
pontificates to nobody in particular about the current state of affairs
in Flanders. In 1564, Spain ruled what is now Antwerp and Flanders. The
Spanish militia seen in the painting in their red tunics seemed to be
preoccupied with chasing down and torturing Protestant heretics. There
are gruesome scenes in the film with a man tied to a wagon wheel
hoisted up in the air with no defense at all while the birds have at
him. A woman's fate is no better as she is shoved alive into an open
grave while the red tunics fill the dirt in on top of her.

The Way to Calvary itself does not show these particular atrocities.
Instead, it has Jesus in the center hoisting his own cross towards his
crucifixion. The exact moment the painting captures is Simon helping
him with the cross because Jesus stumbled and fell down. Everyone's
eyes are on Simon at this time instead of Jesus. In the foreground is
Mary (Charlotte Rampling). She is helpless as she sits on the sidelines
because there is nothing she can do to prevent the red tunics from
carrying out their mission. The rest of the painting shows hundreds of
peasants either watching the proceeding or going about their chores.
Children play games on the hillside, a local peddler sells his bread, a
horn player dances around, and above them all, the miller observes from
his windmill.

The Mill and the Cross is at its best when Bruegel is explaining his
inspiration and how he plans to incorporate all of his ideas and scenes
into one large landscape. He looks closely at a spider's web to
discover where the anchor point on his painting will be and how to
section off the rest of the action. Just as intriguing are the scenes
of everyday life in 1564 Flanders. A young couple gets out of bed and
takes their cow to the field for the day. Bruegel's wife and children
wake up after him and get ready for breakfast which is a small slice of
bread. The miller and his apprentice ready the mill for the day's tasks
and the large wheels and gears moan into action.

Rutger Hauer is excellent as Pieter Bruegel and he appears to be
serving his artistic penance to atone for his ridiculous participation
in Hobo with a Shotgun earlier this year. Michael York is taking a
break from his voice over work and TV appearances to finally show up in
a serious film again. Charlotte Rampling is sort of the odd man out
here. Her screen time is sparse as Mary and she spends most of the time
misty eyed observing all of the peasant movements around her.

The Mill and the Cross is a Polish production directed by Lech Majewski
who also aided in adapting the screenplay from a book of the same name
by Michael Francis Gibson. The film was an official selection at this
year's Sundance Film Festival and will most likely earn an Oscar nod
for Best Costume Design. The costumes are remarkable and frequently
take center stage over the performers.

The Mill and the Cross is a bit reminiscent of The Girl with a Pearl
Earring but instead of showing how the painting is made from the
outside, this time, the filmmakers actually take you inside of the
painting itself and walks on the same landscape as its subjects. There
is little dialogue in the film which is not a problem because it is so
absorbing to just sit back and watch the peasants wander around the
area and Bruegel figure out how to tie everything together. I will not
give it away, but the final shot of the film is as wonderful as the
rest as the camera backs up and reveals something to the audience.

If you are a movie patron with patience and an interest in art history,
The Mill and the Cross is for you. If you get bored in movies without
guns, flash bangs, and screaming, stay away.