At Eternity’s Gate
We really didn’t need another Vincent van Gogh biopic, so director Julian Schnabel (Miral, Basquiat, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) instead gives us a shaky cam so often, you might get seasick. He has scenes with van Gogh sitting outside, enjoying the sights and sounds of nature. Sometimes we’re hearing birds, other times, the scene meanders on with a piano driven score. It’s a nice score, and it’s nice casting, getting three-time Oscar nominee Willem Dafoe, who looks a lot like the troubled artist (despite Dafoe being over 60, and van Gogh was 37 when he killed himself). I especially like his haunting eyes, that seem to convey van Gogh’s madness.
Oscar Isaac plays Paul Gauguin. Brother Theo is played by Rupert Friend. And another talented actor shows up in this — Mads Mikkelsen.
When van Gogh complains about the grey skies and light, Gauguin suggests he goes south. That takes van Gogh, in the last years of his life, to Arles France in 1888.
Obviously, liberties have been taken on his life (as you’d expect from a story about somebody that lived so long ago).
The pacing of this film makes the picture so boring to sit through. One critic I read online said he was considering cutting off his ear rather than sitting through the film. I was never that bored (perhaps because I saw the most boring movie of the year earlier this morning). The handheld cameras, and the blur on the bottom of the screen, felt like something a college student film would employ; or Terrence Malick.
This is self-indulgence, trying to be artistic. It was contrived cinematography. It was a movie that perhaps, only a lover of all things van Gogh could appreciate.
Perhaps I’m being tougher on this because we just had the beautiful Loving Vincent last year, that was done with over 100 artists, recreating his paintings and bringing them to life. Seek that out instead of sleeping through this boring picture.
1 ½ stars out of 5.