Filmmaker brings Bruegel canvas to life
LOS ANGELES – Combining a love of art with cutting-edge digital technology filmmaker Lech Majewski has brought a Renaissance masterpiece to life — in vivid style — on the big screen.
In an innovative movie, the Polish-American director tells the story of a dozen characters represented in Dutch master Pieter Bruegel’s 1564 canvas “Christ Carrying the Cross.”
The painting, which hangs in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, Austria, depicts Christ’s last journey bearing his cross to Golgotha, where he was crucified.
Majewski’s “The Mill and the Cross” has been showered with praise at a string of film festivals, including the recent Venice Biennale, before its release this week in North America.
“I’ve been interested in Bruegel since my teenage years. I’ve always been fascinated by him. I could spend hours and hours watching his paintings,” he told AFP.
Majewski, also a theatre director, poet and painter — New York’s Museum of Modern Art gave him a retrospective in 2006 — persuaded Charlotte Rampling, Michael York, and Dutch actor Rutger Hauer to join his biblical journey.
Hauer, who played the famous replicant in Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner,” slips into the role of Bruegel himself, whom Majewski portrays throughout the film sketching and working on his canvas.
“You always have to arouse the interest of the viewer. For example, in criminal stories you have the ‘Whodunit?,’ the question of who killed, and that’s why people want to watch the movie during one hour and a half. “They want an answer,” said Majewski.
“In order to have any kind of interest from the viewer in this film, I saw in my mind the idea of people crowding behind Bruegel,” Majewski said, referring to hundreds of people crowding into the painter’s masterpiece.
“Think about that: in real life, when you have a painter painting or drawing something in public, you always have a crowd of people behind him, watching the way he’s doing it. I thought that if these people can spend a lot of time and watch an artist paint, why not apply it to the mechanism of the narration?”
Impressive photo-editing, use of digital technology and seamless transition between images from the painting and reconstructed decor in the film give the cinema-goer an arresting sense of being inside a living painting.
Majewski says the film is also intended as a tribute to the artistic masters of past decades.
“Nowadays, everything can be a piece of art, which I detest,” he said. “I think this is killing the art. I am for returning back to some basic qualities that can discern the artificial, the stupid, the empty, the rubbish and the trash of today from the Old Masters. They are the real giants. The artists celebrated today are just dwarfs. Sick dwarfs.”
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