An emotional look at van Gogh in ‘At Eternity’s Gate’ [Movie Review]

Iris Lee

Willem Dafoe portrayal of the tortured artist is nothing short of brilliant

Iris Lee |

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At Eternity’s Gate provides a fresh take on the story of Vincent van Gogh, giving viewers an insight into the artist’s troubled but brilliant mind without over-dramatising it.

The story follows van Gogh’s last days in Arles and Auvers-Sur-Oise France, where he struggles with his art, mental illness, religion, and his friendship with fellow artist Paul Gauguin. At Eternity’s Gate takes a slow, steady look at van Gogh’s mental and artistic development. Director Julian Schnabel’s decision to not dwell on the more well-known moments of van Gogh’s life – like when he cut his ear off – works here, because it gives viewers a chance to see what was truly driving Vincent’s psyche and his art in the last moments of his life.

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Willem Dafoe’s portrayal of the artist is brilliant. His feverish emotions and struggles are etched into the lines on his face, creating a character that both attracts and repulses the viewer. He manages to express the artist’s sensibility and rapture in a very authentic way.

The film comes across as a deeply impressionist piece: it uses blurry, jumpy camera work on lush landscapes, which is paired with dissonant piano chords. The cinematography is off-putting at first, but charms you as time passes.

Viewers looking for action-packed drama will be bored, but those willing to give At Eternity’s Gate a go will experience a mighty emotional punch.