At Eternity’s Gate (2018)

At Eternity’s Gate
Director: Julian Schnabel
Writer: Jean-Claude Carrière, Julian Schnabel, Louise Kugelberg
Cast: Willem Dafoe, Rupert Friend, Oscar Isaac, Mads Mikkelsen, Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Seigner, Niels Arestrup, Anne Consigny, Amira Casar
Seen on: 21.5.2019

Vincent van Gogh (Willem Dafoe) spends most of his time in Arles, painting in a rather fragile state of mind. His brother Theo (Rupert Friend) is his one great supporter. When news reaches Theo that Vincent isn’t doing so well, he convinces Vincent’s friend Paul Gauguin (Oscar Issac) to travel to Arles. But what ails Vincent is not so simply dealt with.

At Eternity’s Gate is one hell of a boring film with irritating cinematography. Despite the amazing cast, I just couldn’t get into it at all.

The film poster showing Vincent van Gogh (Willem Dafoe) with a bandaged ear in front of a yellow wall.

At Eternity’s Gate feels a little bit like Schnabel tried to make a Terrence Malick film. And I already don’t like Malick when he is being himself, much less watching somebody else imitating him. It leads to camerawork that I found just nerve-wracking and a film that is boring when it isn’t confusing. Or actually, it’s also boring when it’s confusing.

I didn’t manage to focus on it at all and I even fell asleep for a little while – but I swear that my falling asleep has nothing to do with finding the film confusing. It managed that all on its own. I assume it was done on purpose, the film not interested in linearity but rather in creating a mood. It’s just that the mood it created in me was one of supreme impatience.

Vincent van Gogh (Willem Dafoe) with a bandaged ear sitting on a park bench.

The film’s saving grace is its cast who are amazing and play their hearts out, but ultimately, there is only so much they can do in this film and the mess of a story it tells. Dafoe at least gets enough material to really shine and he does.

There are interesting things about the film and about van Gogh himself. But this film did not make them accessible to me in the slightest. What an absolute pity.

Vincent van Gogh (Willem Dafoe) talking to Paul Gaugin (Oscar Isaac).

Summarizing: didn’t work for me.

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