At Eternity’s Gate 2019 ****

Films about artists have an advantage over any attempt to chronicle the development of a writer; at least we get to see what the artist sees, and the art that they make. Vincent van Gogh’s life has been tackled before, but Julian Schnabel’s film goes for the ‘last days’ route, with the artist poor, ill and ostricised by society. Of course, the audience can see his brilliance, even if the other characters can’t; Schnabel does a neat job in capturing both the dourness of the company and the light of the paintings. But At Eternity’s Gate would be nothing without the presence of Willem Dafoe, who can make something out of nothing, and presented with a substantial role, can conjure an Oscar-nomination from a tiny budget film. The victim of bullies and feral children alike, his van Gogh is a grimly tortured figure, and yet it’s obvious from his conversations with Paul Gauguin (Oscar Isaac) that artistic failure has not crushed his humanity. At Eternity’s Gate is a portrait of an artist wronged on all sides, and while Schnabel, working from a screenplay by Jean Claude Carrierre, may play fast and loose with established facts, it makes for a satisfying medidation on the nature of art, artistry and eternity.


Leave a Reply