A review of the new bio-pic “At Eternity’s Gate”

There is a whole sub-genre of films about artists and Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) has been the subject of more than most with this work, focusing on the last two years of his life, being the ninth (the previous one – only two years earlier – was “Loving Vincent”). For me, seeing “At Eternity’s Gate” had a special appeal because I viewed it at London’s Tate Britain art gallery immediately after visiting the exhibition “Van Gogh And Britain” about his three years (1873-1876) in England.

Three things make this latest van Gogh bio-pic stand out. First, the film is co-written and directed by the American Julian Schnabel who is himself an artist and understands the creative process of painting. Second, Vincent is played by Willem Dafoe, who may technicaly be two and a half decades too old, but gives a wonderful performance that was rightly Oscar-nominated. Third, the cinematography is gorgeous with a wide palette of colours and much of the film shot on location in southern France.

One could criticise the production for being slow and discordant, but I guess that this was the intention of the director to reflect the mental turmoil of the artist. Also the representation of van Gogh’s fatal shooting is controversial although it was advanced in a 2011 biography. But, whatever reservations one might have, this is film that imprints itself on the memory.


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