Screened as part of NZIFF 2011
The artistry of 16th-century painting encounters the latest 21st-century film techniques in this visually stunning experiment.
“A miracle of technology in the service of the artistic imagination, Lech Majewski’s brilliant film transports its viewers into the living, breathing world of Pieter Bruegel’s dense frieze of Christ’s passion, The Way to Calvary… Bruegel’s 1564 painting sets the drama of the crucifixion within a rustic Flanders scene teeming with everyday life. (‘About suffering they were never wrong, the Old Masters,’ wrote W.H. Auden. ‘How well they understood / Its human position; how it takes place / While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along.’) Likewise Majewski – using computer-generated blue-screen compositing, new 3D technology, just-so location shooting in Poland, Austria and New Zealand and a massive backdrop he painted by hand – tells the story of the painting largely through closely observed secular rituals of 16t-century Flemish daily life, in all its earth-toned grubbiness, with occasional scenes revealing Bruegel’s artistic choices and the politics of the day. Windmilling, calf-hauling, bread-peddling, villagers dancing and children horsing around take up the better part of the narrative, while cameos by Rutger Hauer (as Bruegel), Michael York (as his patron and friend) and Charlotte Rampling (as a limpid Virgin Mary) give historical context and symbolic depth. But the narrative is not the point – the extraordinary imagery is. The painting literally comes to life in this spellbinding film.” — Graham Leggat, San Francisco International Film Festival
“A stunning visual sojourn into the heart of Pieter Bruegel the Elder's people-filled paintings... If you already think his works seem live, you'll have to reconsider what you mean by that after seeing this.” — Helene Wong, NZ Listener