Director: Julian Schnabel
Release Date: November 16th 2018
Kendrick Lamar once said “cycles of a starving artist tryna go beyond the margin‘s margin” and that may be the best summary of Schabel’s At Eternity’s Gate. The movie follows the last days of post-imperialist painter Vincent Van Gogh as he lives them out in late 1800’s France. Van Gogh, played by Willem Dafoe, is our focal point of the film. Dafoe (Spiderman, The Florida Project) gives the performance of a lifetime as he portrays the legendary artist beautifully.
At its core, At Eternity’s Gate is a character study. The entire film revolves around the daily activities of the late Vincent Van Gogh. Throughout the movie, Van Gogh is portrayed as a mad man, a person who is downright crazy. At one point, Vincent is found lying flat on the ground and dropping dirt in his eyes. As a viewer, it is clear what director Julian Schnabel is trying to accomplish. The film is intended to show us what Vincent Van Gogh went through in his final days. Whether he was getting rocks thrown at him, being considered mentally insane, or chopping off his own ear, the message is clear; Vincent Van Gogh’s final days were a shit show.
The film is quiet. The mood is set with the help of a phenomenal score and less by the movie’s dialogue. The dialogue in At eternity’s gate is few and far between. Willem Dafoe does a masterful job of conveying the pain and suffering that Van Gogh went through. Without a career defining performance by its lead actor, this film would not succeed. Relying so much on its leading man, this movie is constructed like the post Kevin Durant OKC Thunder teams. All Westbrook , All the time. Except in this case, its all Dafoe, all the time. Dafoe takes At Eternity’s Gate as far as it can go.
The movie is a slow burner with not a whole lot happening. The film does have a couple of unique quirks to it. For example, Schanabel will occasionally shoot from a first person perspective. Instead of us looking at Van Gough, we see the world as he does. When this is happening, the movie is very shaky and sometimes the colors of the world are distorted, which comes of as a little cheesy. Never the less, it is interesting and different. Even though it is a risky strategy, it does put us in the mind of “a starving artist tryna go beyond the margins margin.” For that alone, At Eternitys Gate is more than just another art film that will be shown on the overhead in an art history class at the hundreds of liberal art schools across the country. Instead, it is one that is Worth A Look on your own time, before you find yourself sleeping in one of those Liberal Art Schools.