Majewski is fascinated by the world of art, painting and symbols
His pencil moves swiftly over the paper.
So what have we here? It’s a city. The inner circuit of its walls forms an almost perfect circle – the golden circle of life. Simple as that.
Looking at the city, Bruegel draws a circle in the upper-left corner.
And another circle on the other side.
He draws another circle opposite.
They are both facing Golgotha.
The black circle is the circle of death, surrounded by a crowd that rushed to the place of execution like starving flies.
Bruegel quickly draws a few lines along the very edge of the piece of paper.
And down here is the tree of death – with a horse’s head at its foot, and us, the two of us beside it; you’re leaning against the tree, downcast.
He quickly sketches them in. Jonghelinck looks over the painter’s shoulder to see the sketch better. Bruegel draws a few more lines on the opposite side of the paper.
And here’s another tree. Its fresh, delicate leaves tremble in the wind. It’s the tree of life. And the backdrop is ready.
Between life and death?
And here’s the third circle, trodden down by the people running from the first to the second. From life to death. Just tell me why they’re in such a hurry.
Jonghelinck looks questioningly.
They simply want to know what happens when you reach the gates of death. They want to know but at the same time make it home for lunch.
Before their eyes two dogs run to each other and begin to sniff each other’s tails. Bruegel watches them intently.
They want terribly to sniff Death’s backside, but they don’t want to be bitten… Or go inside. They know that if you enter once – and we all finally will – going home is out of the question.
Bruegel sketches the mill and its stone foundations. He is a little carried away by his artistic imagination, as far as the height of the rock and the quality of his drawing go. He also draws a tiny miller leaning against the building, intently watching the events unfold.
The paintings in our churches depict God watching people through the clouds with disapproval or discontent. I won’t do that in my painting, but I suppose the miller will take on His role. But that’s not all!!!
At the same time, we see the events through the miller’s eyes.
He runs the heavenly mill that grinds corn for the bread of life. This mill revolves on its own axis, around which the entire universe revolves in turn. Day and night. Along with all living creatures and its residents. But here…
Bruegel makes delicate pencil strokes along the diagonal ones he made earlier.
And here, in the very heart of my spider’s web, one can say that the Saviour himself is being crushed mercilessly like grain under the huge, cosmic millstone of events.
Excerpt translated by David French
Majewski is fascinated by the world of art, painting and symbols
The three-volume edition of Lech Majewski’s screenplays in an opportunity for readers to familiarize themselves with the world of an artist who since the 1980s has doggedly blazed his own trail, creating original arthouse cinema that is respected all over the world. Majewski’s cinema emerges from thinking pictorially and not in terms of narrative; thus most of his screenplays – like his films – have unconventional forms, which record his imagination, his poetic and painterly visions.
The first two volumes present the screenplays of his best-known films (including Wojaczek, Angelus), as well as uncompleted projects (Ellis Island, Yves, Mon Amour). Beside these fully auteur works there are also two commercial pictures (The Flight of the Spruce Goose, Prisoner of Rio) made in Hollywood and the script for Basquiat which was ultimately directed by the painter Julian Schnabel.
There are certain threads running through Majewski’s cinema, such as: love, death, victimhood, mystery. The artist is fascinated by unusual, over-sensitive individuals who fight against self-destruction, like Basquiat, which presents the story of an avant-garde artist who dies of an overdose.
Majewski is fascinated by the world of art, painting and symbols, the fullest expression of which can be found in volume 3, which consists of five screenplays. This newest publication begins with an unrealised script called Beuys, which is a biographical sketch of one of the most important twentieth-century artists. This avant-garde artist transforms his traumatic wartime experiences into his creations, liberating himself from social conventions through form. The theme of the artist also appears in Glass Lips and the poetic Onirica, inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy and Majewski’s own biography. The protagonist – who loses his beloved woman and a close friend in an accident – finds solace in the world of dreams, where he meets the two people closest to him. The theme of death is also present in The Garden of Earthly Delights, which the director based on his own novel Metaphysics. The Mill and the Cross, however, is a kind of apogee of Majewski’s passion for art. The artist invites us into the world of Pieter Bruegel’s The Way of the Cross, which is brought to life by giving some of the painting’s characters their own stories. The screenplay was co-written by the famous art critic Michael F. Gibson, whose analysis of the Dutch master’s work inspired Majewski. The screenwriters made Bruegel himself the guide to this world of rich meanings.
Thus, in the last volume Majewski appears as a cinematic visionary who through his art conducts a dialogue with long-dead masters and at the same time imagines a pessimistic vision of today.
Urszula Tes, translated by David French
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