Film Review – At Eternity’s Gate (2018)

Title – At Eternity’s Gate (2018)

Director – Julian Schnabel (Before Night Falls)

Cast – Willem Dafoe, Oscar Isaac, Rupert Friend, Mads Mikkelsen, Mathieu Amalric, Niels Arestrup, Emmanuelle Seigner

Plot – An examination of famed artist Vincent van Gogh (Dafoe) during the time period in which he lived and worked in Arles and Auvers-sur-Oise in France, in what was one of his most productive and eventful time periods.

“I can make people feel what it’s like to be alive”

Review by Eddie on 29/10/2019

Befitting an artist that is anything but run of the mill, At Eternity’s Gate may not be the quintessential examination of the life and times of famed Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh but The Diving Bell and the Butterfly filmmaker Julian Schnabel ensures that this eye-wateringly beautiful and often poignant look at a very specific time of Van Gogh’s life is a memorable, moving and unique look at an industry defining genius.

Fabulously played by the Oscar nominated Willem Dafoe, in what’s one of his most complete turns in years, Van Gogh is a fractured, tortured and lost soul in Schnabel’s film, as the talented but misunderstood talent deals with loneliness, alcoholism and inner torturing’s that constantly and incessantly told the artist of his make believe failings in a landscape of naysayers that saw very little merit in the works Van Gogh was making at the time.

It’s a wise move by Schnabel to focus on a very specific time period in Van Gogh’s life as he is inspired by fellow artist Paul Gauguin to explore the European countryside to find inspiration in the most unlikely of places, from tree roots to mountain tops, a period of time in which Van Gogh delivered over 70 paintings in an 80 day period of time.

We get no flashbacks or foundation scenes of Van Gogh as a child or what lead to his mid-life crisis of sorts but that doesn’t mean we don’t feel a connection and deep understanding of the man in Schnabel’s and Dafoe’s collaboration, that frequently entails time spent with just Dafoe wondering the picturesque landscapes to the haunting sounds of Tatiana Lisovskaya’s piano driven score or Benoît Delhomme’s intimate yet also grand cinematography, that takes inspiration from the artist himself as we are gifted a fly on the wall type experience of the inner mind and thinking’s of a creative but lost soul.

It’s an alienating way to do things in a commercial and audience pleasing sense and one that likely contributed to the relatively ho-hum cinematic run of Eternity’s Gate towards the end of last year but with its focus firmly on the inner being of Van Gogh you can’t helped but be moved by the man’s love and care for his craft and with Dafoe delivering such a transcendent performance that makes you forget you are even watching such a recognisable actor, Schnabel’s film is a delight for those that fall under its spell.

Much like the best of Terrence Malick or filmmakers with a similar sense of visual and composition to tell a story, not just a way with words, At Eternity’s Gate will take you to another time and place as it gets itself in the very mindset of a man driven to madness for his craft.

Final Say –

Not a typical examination of a world renowned figure, At Eternity’s Gate is a heartfelt, transformative and often captivating journey that’s brilliantly realised by its leading man and director, making it an often magical movie going experience.

4 inquisitive school groups out of 5

10 responses to “Film Review – At Eternity’s Gate (2018)

  1. It’s time I finally see this one. I loved Julian’s “Butterfly/Diving Bell.” And, after seeing The Lighthouse, my appreciation for Dafoe continues to blossom…

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