Director : Lech Majewski
Starring : Rutger Hauer, Michael York, Charlotte Rampling. Poland/Sweden. 1h 36m
It’s always interesting for a art nut like myself to discover something about an era of art, an artist or in some cases just one single painting being extracted in the wonderful world of cinema. It’s not like someone ever sits down to paint something that’s going to take weeks or months or even years for the sake of painting, yet when you find out the details behind some of the epic masterpieces it can be quite breathtaking and you need to look at the painting again. While I’m hugely into art and it’s history, I’m still in two minds weather these make good movies or not!?
Without diving deeply into the artist’s personal life but with some quirky and lively anecdotal excerpts of family life, children squabbling, and tumbling out of bed, breakfasts being eaten and blessings over the family table, the film aims to details the features of the work, the drive behind it and ultimately expressions of divine intervention.
From the initial introduction the remarkable accomplishment of the jaw dropping visuals is very apparent and if you only see the introduction scenes then the film will remain with you forever as they are exquisite. The rest of the film is like watching the paint settle into the masterpiece, it’s not like watching paint dry, instead you are gradually walked through the initial concept sketches and inner musings of the artist and strife of every single character within it, each journey explained, including the tortured man (check out the painting here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Procession_to_Calvary_(Bruegel) ). The artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder, skilfully acted by Rutger Hauer and is patron Nicholas Jonghelinck is sternly portrayed by Michael York and the feminine aspect of the movie is played by the most stunning Charlotte Rampling her steely eyes peer judgements at Rutger as the Virgin Mary giving advice to the artists throughout his journey through his own painting. Do masterful pieces of artwork demand such a film? The canvases of concern are The Mill and The Procession to Calvary, the later depicts a Dutch crucifixion masterpiece created when Flanders was under brutal Spanish occupation. But it’s not a simple as painting a crucifixion painting, and without going into detail the film shows the symbolism of the characters in relation to the current persecution of the people of flanders against a similar strife that happened when Jesus was carrying the cross.
Every aspect of the film is enchanting it really does bring the entire painting to life although at times did remind me of the Storyteller series it’s obvious green screens and lots of CGI in order to create backdrops but they are very accurate and seem only enhance the practice of bringing the art to life. Like any work of art it comes together piece by piece which makes for a slow paced movie but it does build into this great crescendo as this masterpiece is solely piece together from the sum of its parts.
“This is like watching a painting dry” – but in a good way
Pieter Bruegel the Elder himself is mostly concerned; not with the main subject of Jesus being crucified But instead with the world that he is passing and the people who usually go unnoticed and in spite their massive numbers are the actual focal point and it’s not a huge canvas considering how many people are involved in the very end we see it right next to the Tower of Babel painting in a museum.
Exquisite attention to the minute detail to create the world around the painting but ends up in the painting the clothes are designed by Dorota Roqueplo helps bring this reality into existence.
Ultimately this isn’t going to be everybody’s cup of tea not everybody isn’t art not everyone cares about the history of a single painting but you can’t deny is the artistic qualities within the film. Even some of the “still” moments are totally consuming, this should definitely be considered a breakthrough piece for the director and every moment of the film is extraordinarily spellbinding and wondrous it’s literally like having a dream with the artist while painting has been created.
R – The Girl with the pearl earring (2003),
L – Artist Biographies
5s – Rutger Hauer, Michael York, Charlotte Rampling