William Dafoe as Vincent van Gogh – a misunderstood artist who was way ahead of his time. At Eternity’s Gate review, brought to you by AboutFlick’s Mr T.
Director: Julian Schnabel
Review: At Eternity’s Gate offers a look at the final years of Vincent van Gogh, much of which was spent in the southern France countryside. The director tries to get a glimpse into the mind of the genius and perfectly illustrates his inner turmoil, as well as the profound philosophies which inspired him. The artist’s problems with mental illness are well-documented and quite a few biopics have been made on this topic, though most end up glorifying him. This film, on the other hand, seeks to humanize the legend and his struggles to fit in a society which was not very receptive of his talent or ideologies.
Though some would argue that Willem Dafoe shouldn’t have been cast in a role to play someone 25 years his junior, they should watch the movie first. He demonstrates that age is just a number and effortlessly slips into the character of a man passionately in love with nature. From what we can see from his self-portraits, he appears to be a splitting image of van Gogh. A lack of dialogue is not a hindrance to an actor of Dafoe’s calibre and some of the film’s best moments are when Dafoe lets his eyes do the talking as he stares at the horizon pondering over the meaning of life. I think this is one of his finest performances, even better than his work in The Last Temptation of Christ, Platoon or The Florida Project.
Rupert Friend, however, is insufferable as Vincent’s brother Theo, and the stiff dialogue or absence of any expressions doesn’t do him any favours. Oscar Isaac is one of my favourite actors, but here he’s presented as a stereotypical hypocrite, one of the film’s rare misfires. Mads Mikkelsen shares a brief and poignant moment with Vincent before the film draws to a close. The scene is very important since it provides a peek into van Gogh’s psyche and how he views the world around him.
At Eternity’s Gate never bothers itself with clichéd storytelling found in conventional biopics. In contrast, it is essentially a treatise on the quest for existence. Although the dialogue is frankly not very good, the cinematography is exceptional. The close-up shots of Dafoe flawlessly capture the inner turmoil experienced by the awestruck Vincent as he looks longingly at the vast landscapes before him. Director Julian Schnabel and cinematographer Benoît Delhomme channel their inner Ansel Adams, filling the frame with beautiful imagery of nature that ultimately transforms the film into something much more than an average biopic.
Rating: My rating is 4/5.
Who should watch this: People who enjoy well-crafted biopics on artists are really going to enjoy At Eternity’s Gate. Also check out Loving Vincent (2017), Shine (1996), Frida (2002) and Pollock (2000).