February 7, 2019  (Web Review)

At Eternity’s Gate

Lionsgate, 111 min., PG-13, DVD: $19.99, Blu-ray: $24.99, Feb. 12

Reviewer rating: 2.5/4

“Maybe God made me a painter for people who aren’t born yet,” muses Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), who yearned to be admired and financially rewarded during his lifetime. Julian Schnabel’s fragmented exploration of this enigmatic Dutch master’s mind during his declining years in Arles, Saint-Rémy, and Auvers-sur-Oise is both fascinating and frustrating. “I’d like to find a new light—for paintings that we haven’t yet seen. Bright pictures, painted in sunlight,” Van Gogh (Oscar-nominated Willem Dafoe) explains to colleague/friend Paul Gauguin (Oscar Isaac) and art-dealer brother Theo (Rupert Friend), as he leaves Paris for the French countryside. Schnabel’s meditative musing does correct some inaccurate assumptions: Van Gogh was not antisocial; he simply lacked social graces, and his work was all-important. “Sometimes it’s so intense when I’m in the middle of nature that I forget my name and it’s hard to remember where I am.” Some quibble that Van Gogh died at 37, yet he’s portrayed by 63-year-old Dafoe. Regardless, Dafoe’s performance is the key attraction in this otherwise uneven film. A strong optional purchase. (S. Granger)