Who better to make the definitive movie about Vincent van Gogh and his art than the painter-turned-filmmaker Julian Schnabel? Not a biopic, this is a movie about the divine and human aspects of creation and how they intersect in one brilliant and damaged man during the final few years of his life.
Willem Dafoe gives one of the best performances of his life as van Gogh here, in a work we can call an “”art film”” in the truest sense. We observe the artist as he paints, interacts with others – most fascinatingly with his comrade-in-paints Paul Gaugin (Oscar Isaac) – and contends with the harsh realities of being born a century or so before his time. This film is a rallying cry for the necessity of art and it arrives at a time when we may need a reminder of just that.
“By adamantly focusing above all else on van Gogh’s work – and its transporting ecstasies – Schnabel has made not just an exquisite film but an argument for art.” – Manohla Dargis, New York Times
“Most of the existing movies about the painter build on the mad-genius cliche. Schnabel cares little about the source of van Gogh’s genius, however; instead, his focus is on the creative impulse, the urge to find the transcendent qualities of the everyday world. AT ETERNITY’S GATE gifts us with the chance to see the world through the artist’s eyes.” – Marjorie Baumgarten, Austin Chronicle