Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Euro 2012: Polish Films

Entry #3 of the Euro 2012 Book & Film Spotlight looks at the two Polish films.

The Mill and the Cross (2011, Lech Majewski)

The Mill and the Cross is literally a living breathing work of art. Lech Majewski’s camera dives into Pieter Bruegel’s 1564 painting The Procession to Calvary and expands on some of the painting’s tiny details. The film also depicts Bruegel (Rutger Hauer) and some of his inspirations in crafting such a complex work. It is easy to miss some of the details by quickly scanning the painting but Majewski’s technique of mixing live action and special effects ensures that the viewer is able to properly appreciate the beauty and sometimes brutality depicted in "The Procession to Calvary". The film’s initial moments shows a blown up version of the painting which brings the figures to life while the finale shows a static painting hung on a museum wall. As the camera moves away, the painting diminishes in size in a similar manner to how the planet diminishes at the end of Andrey Tarkovskiy’s Solaris.

Even though the painting starts to disappear from view, Majewski’s film ensures that the painting and ordeal of its subjects will remain long in memory.

In Darkness (2011, Agnieszka Holland)

In Agnieszka Holland’s In Darkness the camera dives underground to depict the true life story of how a few Polish Jews avoided being captured by the Nazis. Some of the Jews manage to hide in the sewers where they encounter Leopold Socha (Robert Wieckiewicz), a man who knows the sewer system better than anyone else. Initially, Socha agrees to help the Jews in exchange for money but eventually helps them out of humanity. Holland's film, aided by Jolanta Dylewska’s remarkable cinematography, highlights some of the challenges the survivors faced living in tight and dark quarters.


Sam Juliano said...

Terrific reviews here on both films Sachin! I have seen both, and while I do consider THE MILL AND THE CROSS a near-masterpiece (the blu-ray, like the theatrical presentation is really stunning!), Agnieska Holland's film exerts considerable power in it's tense narrative. Holland's EUROPA EUROPA and OLIVIER OLIVIER were excellent films that made by ten best lists of their respective release years, and I always look forward to here newest work.

Anyway, you frame both beautifully here, and I love when you refer to MILL AND THE CROSS as a "living, breathing work of art." Indeed!

Sachin said...

Thanks a lot for your wonderful comment Sam. I remember your love for THE MILL AND THE CROSS and how it was really close to making your 2011 top 10 as well. I have to seek out Holland's earlier films such as EUROPA EUROPA.