At Eternity’s Gate

Directed by Golden Globe winner Julian Schnabel whose 2007 film The Diving Bell and the Butterfly won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film and was nominated for four Academy Awards, At Eternity’s Gate is a beautifully-shot and uniquely creative biopic about the final days of famed Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh living and working in the South of France towards the end of the 19th century. Played by the mesmerizing Willem Dafoe who is nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance, the penniless and unappreciated Vincent van Gogh is encouraged to move to the small town of Arles in the South of France and is occasionally accompanied by his friend and fellow artist Paul Gauguin, played by Golden Globe winner Oscar Isaac. Besides Paul Gauguin, the only emotional and financial support that he received was from his brother and struggling Parisian art dealer Theo, played by Emmy nominee Rupert Friend. Rather than following the typical formula of a straightforward biopic, the movie reflects the impressionistic artworks of Vincent van Gogh by relying on shaky avant-garde camera work and an unstructured storyline that also explores the mental instability of such a genius as Vincent van Gogh. A majority of the film follows him as he travels the French countryside with his paints and easel trying to discover the perfect places to paint his now masterpieces. His work and mind was so out-of-the-box at the time that he was disparaged by the villagers as a violent lunatic and would be committed several times to a mental institution for his eccentric behavior. The vibrant sequences in which Vincent van Gogh is recreating his environment are brilliantly captured by the filmmaker who visually compares the final results with the actual surroundings inspiring the artwork. The movie is also broken up by several philosophical monologues given by Vincent van Gogh and those caring for him in the institutions, including a priest who is played by Mads Mikkelsen and a doctor who is played by Mathieu Amalric. Evident by his ideas of grandeur and his blasé decision to famously cut off his own ear, Vincent van Gogh is portrayed as the archetypal tortured genius who was before his time and thereby led a very troubled life that eventually ended in tragedy. Overall, I found it to be a hypnotic and extremely well-crafted film that effectively tries to explore the inner psyche and artistry of such an enigmatic and only relatively recently internationally well-regarded artistic icon as Vincent van Gogh who is magnificently brought to life by the one and only Willem Dafoe.

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