The Mill and the Cross is a very unusual film about a painting. Specifically, Pieter Bruegel’s masterpiece The Way to Calvary, the story of the Crucifixion set in Flanders during the brutal Spanish occupation. There’s not much narrative and very little dialogue in the movie; yet, its painstaking attention to detail and mesmerizing images are spellbinding. 

A Portion of
The Way to Calvary (1564)
Pieter Bruegel the Elder

As the movie unfolds, we enter the world of the painting and observe the ordinary lives of 16th-century people: couples engaged in sexual dalliances, children scurrying about, musicians playing instruments, soldiers tormenting the villagers, and farmers tending their fields. The characters move in and out of the painting as landscapes change between filmed and painted images. The film mixes live action, special effects, green screen work, and the actual painting itself. It’s a surreal vision of both the Crucifixion and the early Renaissance.