At Eternity’s Gate
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At Eternity’s Gate

Let us agree that biopics about artists make up one of the most hackneyed territories of cinema, a field prone to academicism. The figure of Vincent Van Gogh has already been vampirized by numerous filmmakers, from The crazy red hair of Vincente Minelli (with an iconic Kirk Douglas) to Van Gogh by Robert Altman (with a Tim Roth giving away a feast of histrionics),  Animal World passing through the Van Gogh by Maurice Pialat, the less didactic approach to the figure of the emblematic Dutch painter. Now, the painter and filmmaker Julian Schnabel offers, at At Eternity’s Gate, a new approach to the creator of Sunflowers, an approach that draws on its horizon the possibility of penetrating the mentality and the imagination of the painter. Between a gale of detail shots and subjective shots, Schnabel’s film tries to capture the rapture experienced by Van Gogh in his encounter with nature and artistic creation.

In his intimate dialogue with the figure of Van Gogh, Schnabel tries to articulate a strong link between his handling of the camera and the pictorial method of the Dutch genius. In a risky scene, Schnabel decides to throw his camera on the face of Willem Dafoe (Van Gogh) lurching / brushing until the actor’s face occupies the entire panoramic frame of the screen. The scenes The Seagull abound in which Van Gogh is intoxicated by the beauty of nature, his main source of inspiration.

What in a traditional biopic would have occupied a brief interlude here becomes the central feature of the film. The camera wobbles nervously around Dafoe’s face and body, while the staccato montage reveals the traces of a shoot open to improvisation and chance. It is not difficult to find links between the images of At Eternity’s Gate and the recognizable style of Terrence Malick, with his portrait of the transcendental dimension of the encounter between man and nature. In Dogman a key dialogue of the film, Van Gogh says that his greatest desire is to feel “a part of everything that is out there,” a sentence that is easy to imagine in the mouth of a character of Malick.

Duration: 110 min



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At Eternity’s Gate
At Eternity’s Gate
At Eternity’s Gate