Willem Dafoe was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of the world-famous painter Vincent Van Gogh. Now comes At Eternity’s Gate also in USA cinemas with a long delay. We reveal what you can expect in our review.
The Plot Summary
In the area of Arles and Auvers-sur-Oise, where Vincent van Gogh (Willem Dafoe) has retreated to escape the pressures of life in Paris, he is treated kindly by some and brutally by others. The owner of the local restaurant takes pity on him and gives him a notebook for his drawings. Others are afraid of his dark and unpredictable mood swings. His close friend and artist Paul Gaugin (Oscar Isaac) also finds him too oppressive and leaves him. Only his brother and art dealer Theo (Rupert Friend) supports him unwaveringly, even if he fails to sell even one of Vincent’s works.
Movie explanation of the ending
It wasn’t that long ago that “Loving Vincent” captured the hearts of many cineastes and art lovers. The reason: For their portrait of the post-impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh, the director and author duo of Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman not only resorted to the stylistic device of animation, which is usually primarily associated with the children’s and family film segment. It also chose a never-before-seen design for its project by visually modeling “Loving Vincent” on the works of van Gogh. Over 100 artists designed a total of around 65,000 different individual images, which were “played” one after the other for the 94-minute long feature film, creating the impression of fluid movement. The result is, above all, technically remarkable, but could contribute little new to the legends and myths surrounding the Dutch artist. “Loving Vincent” is ultimately a classic crime drama that lacks narrative flavor. The director Julian Schnabel, who is himself active in art circles (“Butterfly and Diving Bell”) Basically he does the same thing for his “At Eternity’s Gate”. He also uses a very special production style to bring a well-known story to the screen, but at the same time he concentrates entirely on the artistic component when he tries to make the world around his main character so tangible and tangible, as Vincent van Gogh himself must have once perceived it.
In a central scene of “At Eternity’s Gate”, Vincent van Gogh enters his apartment after a trip into the city and takes off his brown leather boots on the dark brown wooden floor. Benoît Delhomme’s camera (“The Discovery of Infinity”) Although it always remains close to the protagonist, who is the focus of every single second, the shoes gradually take up more and more space in the viewer’s field of vision. At some point we only see them from van Gogh’s perspective, who in the next moment picks up an easel and begins to paint the boots. As if in a trance, he gradually brings a living work of art to paper with fine brushstrokes, the creation of which is also understandable for the viewer through the constant panning from the canvas on which this picture is currently being created to the shoes and back. At some point the real model (i.e. the boots) even completely blurs into the painted image, so that for a few seconds you think you can see through the eyes of Vincent van Gogh, who must perceive the world around him so completely differently than we do . This scene is representative of every one in which Julian Schnabel completely immerses himself in the psyche of his main character. But at the same time it is also the most interesting, because as rigorously and with infectious enthusiasm as Schnabel, who is also responsible for the script, carries out his very own vision of an “art film”, he sometimes threatens to lose himself in his exuberance.
All too often, “At Eternity’s Gate” simply consists of scenes in which the main character walks through the world and we experience the nature around him from a first-person perspective (i.e. through his eyes, so to speak). Vincent van Gogh seems to dissolve in it another time. Benoît Delhomme chooses exciting camera perspectives from super close-ups to expansive panoramas; Above all, the play with different color saturation ensures completely new moments to be experienced in an actually unspectacular setting. The visuals of “Van Gogh” are undoubtedly impressive and exciting. However, no pattern can be recognized in it and so the artistic decisions within the film sometimes seem arbitrary. If, for example, van Gogh’s field of vision suddenly begins to turn yellow or blurs dominate the picture from time to time, the purpose of the whole thing is not clear. Now Julian Schnabel can certainly be credited with the fact that he captures the essence of the artist portrayed, which is still barely tangible today, no more accurately than other films to date. Even “Loving Vincent” couldn’t avoid the blank spaces in van Gogh’s life, but told everything else in a much straighter way. But its unconventional design makes “At Eternity’s Gate” a film that struggles for the viewer’s interpretation and interpretation. As a simple observer you won’t get very far here.
The cast is not nearly as unconventional as the production. Julian Schnabel relies on Hollywood star Willem Dafoe as the sole driving force of his project (“Destiny is a lousy traitor”), which can be seen in pretty much every single scene of “Van Gogh: On the Threshold of Eternity”. He perfectly expresses the closed and manic nature of the inestimable artist and, despite his lack of tangibility, becomes a figure whose fascination you simply cannot resist. And long before the painter cuts off his ear in his madness. Oscar Isaac acts around him (“Ex_Machina”) as Van Gogh’s fellow painter Paul Gaugin, Rupert Friend (“Just a small favor”) as Theo van Gogh, who is worried about his brother, and Mads Mikkelsen (“Star Wars: Rogue One”) in a small priest role also exclusively Hollywood top-class actors. Not only do they all sacrificially fit into their roles. They also stand behind Willem Dafoe with obvious awe. Not only does he take over every scene, no matter how small, with his strong acting. Sometimes just a look at Dafoe’s lined face, which Julian Schnabel captures in long shots like a still life, is enough – as if he were trying to examine the person of Vincent van Gogh in the truest sense of the word. That much can be said, he did not succeed. But at least he captured some of the fascination he created on film.
Conclusion: The biopic “At Eternity’s Gate” is more of a moving work of art than a classic retelling of an eventful life, which benefits from the fact that director Julian Schnabel is at home in the world of painters himself. His views are sometimes lazy, but always beautiful.
“At Eternity’s Gate” can be seen in selected USA cinemas from April 18th.