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At Eternity's Gate

Winner – Best Actor 2018 Venice Film Festival

At Eternity’s Gate, a transporting drama about Vincent van Gogh’s tumultuous, fervid, and artistically possessed last days, is a movie that channels the evanescent glow of van Gogh’s being as if it were lightning in a bottle. Set during the time that van Gogh spent in Arles, where he at one point completed 75 paintings in 80 days, it’s a flowingly intuitive and celebratory biopic,­ a bursting sunflower of a movie.

Poster for the Vincent van Gogh biopic At Eternity's GateThe film’s vision of van Gogh is honest and incisive and, at the same time, unabashedly romantic. Director (and painter) Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell And The Butterfly) pays tribute to the founding visionary of modern art, a painter who inflected 19th-century landscapes and people and objects with 20th-century delirium, and weaves a complicated vision of van Gogh’s joy into the tapestry of his fabled unhappiness.

Vincent, portrayed with luminous intensity and power by Willem Dafoe, is a man literally in love with the world – with the transcendence of nature. When he arrives in the country town of Arles, he knows he’s home. He has found the source of the light. Schnabel’s camera follows van Gogh as he wanders through the rippling wheat fields, a wooden easel on his back, or sprinkles earth on his face, or stands in tall stalks, arms outstretched, wearing a smile of heaven as he lets nature’s bliss flow through him. 

Vincent’s inner pain is that he knows he’s an artist of the future. He has glimpsed the world that’s coming – the world of the senses, of the here and now, made divine and tactile and flushed with the madness of colour – and the movie suggests that one of the reasons he leaves this earth too early is that he can hardly wait to see the future.

– Owen Gleiberman, Variety

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