Visually ravishing and narratively dry, The Mill & the Cross is a restaging of "The Way to Calvary," the 1564 allegory by Flemish master Pieter Bruegel the Elder. As art history, the movie is splendid. As a film, it is didactic and photogenic - but not cinematic. This said, it boasts a most imaginative use of computer-generated images and lucid explanation of how a painting came to be.
Mill is a collaboration between Michael Francis Gibson, who wrote the book on which it is based, and Lech Majewski, Polish video artist, filmmaker, and unorthodox art historian.
Majewski's previous works include the magic-realist screenplay to Basquiat, wonderfully realized by artist/director Julian Schnabel, and his own The Garden of Earthly Delights, about a dying art historian who uses the Hieronymus Bosch painting as - dare I say it? - a sexual aid.
Mill opens on a tableau of figures before a photographic backdrop of Bruegel's sloping and craggy landscape. Towering above is a mill perched atop what resembles an escarpment of melted candle wax. Inside this fantastic structure, the miller and his wife wake up to breakfast. Then the film jumps from Bruegel's mind's eye to the artist himself.