Visually stunning, ‘The Mill and the Cross’ lacks narrative
November 11, 2011
Not only is “The Mill and the Cross” based off the 1564 painting The Way to Cavalry, but the movie is seemingly a painting in itself. In the painting of over 500 characters, we are able to see Christ walking amongst the crowd while carrying a crucifix. Even while this incredibly famous event is occurring, we get many people going about their everyday lives in the world around this polarizing figure. This shows that even when something important is happening there is just as much of the ordinary happening around the event.
“The Mill and the Cross” is a film of few words; dialogue seems unnecessary as the landscape and artwork do all the talking. The backdrop is practically a painting as most of the film is shot from a side angle like you are actually looking at the painting hanging up on a wall. We follow multiple peoples’ lives, some mundane while others have great importance.
One of the more important ones is of a man and a woman who live in the same quarters as their pet calf. They go to buy some bread when suddenly the man is whipped senselessly by men on horseback (that can be perceived as the Jews or the Spanish). Soon the man is killed, suspended high in the air on a wheel, and the birds begin to eat away at his face. Another life which viewers are treated to is that of the man who runs the mill that stands high above the town. The mill is seen as the true figure in the sky and not that of Christ that is walking among the people. When the mill stops with its gears deadlocked, everyone in the movie pauses, as if you are looking at the painting. These few scenes really stand out in this film as artistic, fresh, and new.
The only thing really keeping this film together and understandable is the few narratives made by the artist himself as he explains what is going on in the painting and with the people. It isn’t until about 30 minutes into the movie that you hear from the artist, and by that time “The Mill and the Cross” was dull and confusing. The narrator helps gel the story, helping the viewer to understand why all of these different images are important, but do all of these images and side stories matter?
Some points in “The Mill and the Cross” are just not made. I began to wonder if all the things that were unimportant to anything that could be called a storyline were really just supposed to be that, unimportant. This movie is slow, goes nowhere, and ends abruptly.
Even with all that, it had some lasting effect on my psyche. The look and feel of this film was just great and kept me going even when it began to drag at the halfhour mark. Now who do I recommend this movie too? Should I recommend this to someone who is religious, artistic, or a just a movie lover like me? If you do not fall into one of those three categories, I do not think “The Mill and the Cross” is for you.
Dustyn Dubuque is a history major and geography minor that has a love and passion for film. He watches over 100 films each year and loves Academy Awards season.