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Led by mesmerizing work from Willem Dafoe in the central role, At Eternity's Gate intriguingly imagines Vincent Van Gogh's troubled final days.
All Critics (137)
| Top Critics (27)
| Fresh (108)
| Rotten (29)
Dafoe fully commits to his performance, as does Schnabel to the painter's vision and humanity.
At Eternity's Gate mainly succeeds, dusting off a century's worth of global celebrity to both animate a suffering soul and rescue a radical artistic mission from the museum gift shop.
It's a story both ecstatic and tragic, and Schnabel is more interested in the former than the latter.
Dafoe adds another masterful performance to his resume; his work here is as deep and as piercing as his performance in "The Last Temptation of Christ" more than 30 years ago.
Dafoe may be the best actor around for expressing an inner life in extremis.
Dafoe's elegiac quality hints at why the artist was ahead of his time: because he saw more than anyone else could. It's a towering performance in a movie that casts a magnetic spell.
At Eternity's Gate transforms itself into a painting in its own right that the late artist would have been proud of.
Willem Dafoe shines. [Full review in Spanish]
"An atypical biopic".
In a stylistic choice that is both the film's best feature, as well as its greatest weakness, its makers have opted to put visuals first and coherent story second.
...a superfluous biopic and a tedious experience slightly elevated by Dafoe's acting efforts.
The film takes a rare approach: It focuses on Vincent's drive rather than his mental health. The signposts to tragedy are all there, but his miseries never hog the spotlight.
Even as they do reflect the character's fragmented mind, the film's visual and stylistic excesses begin to feel like mere affectation after a while, but at least Willem Dafoe delivers a committed performance as a tormented artist who longs to understand his purpose in the world.
I get what At Eternity's Gate was going for, visually. But that thing was not a thing i enjoyed. The framing made me rather uncomfortable, which, again, kind of the point, but not for me. Massive props to Dafoe of course, his Oscar nomination for best actor is not uncalled for, and special extra props to Mads Mikkelsen, the sequence between the two of them was far and away my absolute favourite part of At Eternity's Gate. But so much of the rest of the thing is just nature shots accompanied by violently jarring piano, and I cannot call myself a fan.
There aren't any new revelations about Van Gogh here, but Schnabel's attempts to take us inside the man's mind do yield some beautiful sequences. And despite being way too old for the part, Dafoe is great.
Julian Schnabel out-Schnabels himself with this fractured biopic of the Kurt Cobain of painting: Vincent van Gogh. Parts of the film go full Malick with Benoit Delhomme's lilting then askew camer-acrobatics, but if you can see past all the rattled running scenes and horizontal diopter shots the film stays fairly well grounded with Willem Dafoe's manically subdued performance. He's aided in the task by Oscar Isaac, Mads Mikkelsen, and Rupert Friend as the movie documents fragments of van Gogh's last few years after leaving Paris. As his mental health deteriorates, we follow the echoes and burnt circuits in Vincent's brain as his frustration turns to alcoholism turns to mental illness turns to despondency.
For anyone who's aware of his biography, there won't be many surprises here in terms of plot, but, for anyone who walked in off of the street to see this, Schnabel does no favors in hammering out the details of his final days. It's a heady and impressionistic piece, and the difference between it being dreamlike and sleep-inducing will probably depend on your caffeine levels. It's certainly not one of those movies that reaches out a grabs you, nor does it have the soulful impact of something like The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. But for a quiet, emotional exploration of the long-gone famed painter who's been depicted over and over in lesser contexts, At Eternity's Gate is an intelligent and finely crafted look at the dark side of Vincent van Gogh.
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