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At Eternity's Gate

Opening Date
07 Mar 2019
111 mins
English - subtitles to be advised
Biography, Drama
Julian Schnabel
Willem Dafoe, Rupert Friend, Oscar Isaac
A look at the life of painter Vincent van Gogh during the time he lived in Arles and Auvers-sur-Oise, France.
By Jason Lin  07 Mar 2019
Julian Schnabel’s At Eternity’s Gate makes an effective biopic that truly allows the audience to step into Vincent van Gogh’s shoes.
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Artists are always perceived to be different, as some might say that quaint personalities typically make the best artists with their distinct vision and traits. Julian Schnabel’s At Eternity’s Gate makes an effective biopic that truly allows the audience to step into Vincent van Gogh’s shoes.
Van Gogh (played by the impeccable Willem Dafoe) has an avant-garde view of the world before him, which is starkly different from the rest of his peers around him. Depicted in the film as one who feels obliged to show the rest what he sees, Van Gogh expresses himself through his vibrant paintings. The key issue is that no one, not even fellow established painters nor a religious priest, could acknowledge and appreciate his paintings as legitimate works of art.
Despite the sad happenings in his life where he is often persecuted and prejudiced by many around him in the film, Van Gogh’s vision is astoundingly colourful and lively. With his mental health at stake, Van Gogh persists on with his works as he felt that his ability to paint was the only gift from God and it was all he could do with his life.
Schnabel attempts to discuss public perception of individuals such as Van Gogh where there might be a key difference between crazy and special. This is well depicted through the close handheld shots of Van Gogh (photographed by Benoît Delhomme) with the occasional perspective shots where the bottom third is blurred. This might make the film challenging for some viewers to sit through, but kudos to Schnabel for sticking to what was intended for the film to portray.
The film, while at times illogical, makes a good and real reflection of what Van Gogh might be about when he was living. Cutting off his ear to send it to someone, and his constant desire to go outdoors and capture the beauty of nature through paintings. For someone who is so alienated from society to seek therapy from the outdoors and painting should gain respect as a highly-positive individual. Especially during trying times in the late 1800s.
Van Gogh’s view of his presence in a time that was not ready for him was boldly referenced to the story of Christ during a scene between Van Gogh and a religious priest (Mads Mikkelsen). There was also an interesting reference on the treatment of Van Gogh made to how Pontius Pilate’s decision was influenced by the public’s sentiments.
Not the usual biopic genre production depicting the influential Vincent Van Gogh, At Eternity’s Gate makes a point on how his works that are intended to capture eternity’s beauty are highly revered even till today despite being cruelly judged upon over 120 years ago.
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