By: Movie Snurb (A Toast) –
At Eternity’s Gate follows Vincent van Gogh in the latter years of his life. We spend time with him as he relocates to southern France and spends his time painting the landscapes and having theological discussions with Paul Gauguin, played perfectly by Oscar Isaac. While living in Arles and Auvers-sur-Oise we get to see the world through Vincent’s eyes and marvel at the beauty in the world around him. It’s also a sad look at how he was misunderstood and how he was far ahead of his time as a painter.
This is the most beautiful film I’ve seen this year. The cinematography is absolutely brilliant on so many levels in this film. When we’re in the POV of van Gogh the world’s colors are vibrant but the edges of the screen are blurry. It shows us the distance he has with other people. No one understands him and he has trouble understanding other people, yet his view of nature is gorgeous. That blurred edge is the barrier from van Gogh and the world. Also, when we’re in his POV the shots are all close ups and sometimes the camera will even move in weird angles. However, when we are simply looking into the story and not from Vincent’s POV, the shots are all medium to long shots. It’s a small distinction, but it has a major effect on how the story is told and how the audience experiences the story.
The cinematography also does something that I didn’t realize until after watching the film, the colors that are emphasized in the film are the colors it seems van Gogh loved to use. These earth tones; blue, green, brown/tan: these colors seemed to pop off the screen. This was another way the Julian Schnabel and his Cinematographer Benoit Delhomme tried to help the audience connect and experience the world around van Gogh. Granted I’m not an Art History major, but in all of van Gogh’s well known works there is a theme of earth tones and those colors really shine through here, especially in the scenes he is painting in nature. Those colors seem to disappear when he is inside or around people, but when he is in his element that’s when those colors shine brightest, this is when because van Gogh is at his best as a person.
Willem Dafoe is so good in this role, it’s almost like he was born to play van Gogh. Does it matter the van Gogh died at age 37 yet Dafoe is 65? No, I can’t explain why either, because that shouldn’t work, and the filmmakers make no real effort to de-age Dafoe. It just works, and that could be because van Gogh wasn’t doing well at least in the public eye towards the end. Dafoe doesn’t go over the top when van Gogh is spiraling, which could’ve been easy to do with an artist who appears to be insane. Yet, Dafoe has this empathy for van Gogh that helps the audience empathize with him and makes van Gogh lovable. It makes you sad to think of what Vincent went through being so far ahead of his time that people hated him, and it wasn’t until he died that everyone began to understand him. I was pleased to see Dafoe get a Golden Globe nomination, I hope he can get an Oscar nomination because it would be well deserved.
Also, Oscar Isaac is excellent as Paul Gauguin. Isaac is able to walk this fine line between smug douchebag and likable. He treats van Gogh like he is a mentor to van Gogh. At the same time it can seem mean, but Gauguin is only doing these things because he cares for van Gogh. It’s a hard place to stay in for an entire film, yet Isaac does it comfortably like only the true brilliant actors could.
At Eternity’s Gate is not a film for everyone; it’s definitely not a mainstream film. However, if you turn yourself over to the film you’ll experience something rather beautiful and something that you’ll keep revisiting in your mind.
P.S. I forgot to write about the score which is also gorgeous, especially when paired with the cinematography.
At Eternity’s Gate (2018) Drinking Game
Do a Shot: every time someone doesn’t understand or judges van Gogh.
Do a Shot: every time van Gogh blacks out.
Take a Drink: every time van Gogh is painting.
Take a Drink: every time van Gogh replays conversations in his mind.