At Eternity’s Gate

At Eternity’s Gate Review

by D. Adonis

*** 3 Stars

Willem Dafoe is outstanding as Vincent Van Gogh, portraying a sense of poignant optimism of a painter who struggles in his depression and isolation.

At Eternity’s Gate will surely spark interest in audiences for its stylistic representation of Van Gogh and his art, however, other viewers might lose patience during its more sluggish moments. Nevertheless, Willem Dafoe excels as Van Gogh in Schnabel’s sincere impressionistic account of the troubled artist.

Schnabel’s biopic follows Vincent Van Gogh (Willem Dafoe) during his later years in Paris, focusing on his emotional struggles and his relationship with art, leading up to his death. In the film, Van Gogh repeatedly stresses the idea of paintings being a reflection of how the artist sees the world, and similarly, At Eternity’s Gate is Schnabel’s attempt in exhibiting Van Gogh’s story through the eyes of the artist himself. The visuals are in constant motion: there is a sense of urgency in the cinematography which mimics Van Gogh’s rapid painting method (‘paintings have to be painted fast’, he reasons to Gauguin in the film). Furthermore, the film was shot in the locations where Van Gogh resided during his later years in France, proving Schnabel’s dedication in attempting a cinematic recreation of Van Gogh’s paintings. He manages to make a biographical film which succeeds in capturing the essence of both the art and the artist. .

Willem Dafoe is outstanding as Vincent Van Gogh, portraying a sense of poignant optimism of a painter who struggles in his depression and isolation. However, the drama of the film is lacking. Despite the stunning visuals and outstanding performances, there isn’t enough to drive the narrative forward. The film also suffers from occasional longueurs, for instance, there are many scenes where Van Gogh is shown in some kind of artist’s ritual, where he walks around in nature, trying to find inspiration. Those scenes start out beautifully but they linger for too long, and too often, that it loses its allure as the film progresses.

At Eternity’s Gate is currently available on Netflix and was rated 12 (A) by the BBFC.

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