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At Eternity’s Gate – a review of the Vincent film

We went to see the recent film At Eternity’s Gate at the QUAD which is a look at the life of Vincent van Gogh during the time he lived in Arles and Auvers-sur-Oise, France. Willem Dafoe was excellent in the lead role and the tragedy of Vincent’s life was painful to watch at times. It was a film very much focused on the thoughts and feelings of the man, not a glossy representation of the life of an artist at the time. Van Gogh was penniless throughout his life and of all the films I’ve seen about this man, I think this film shows a refreshingly brutal honesty that many artists in the late 19th century lived a far from glamorous life.

The film seemed to steer away from showing the beauty of the French countryside and instead seemed to be looking through Vincent’s eyes – blurry camera work, black screens with only dialogue, many close up shots of the ground and walking shoes.

His close relationship Paul Gauguin was clear and when Gauguin left to go to Paris after he gained success the impact on Vincent was extreme and very well portrayed. This incident clearly contributed to Van Gogh’s deteriorating mental health.

There were many scenes where Vincent was walking through the countryside, clearly searching for something, the eternal light, the the ultimate view or an understanding of his place in the world.

Things that spoilt the film were the underlying American accent (subtitles better maybe?) and some of the blurred vision shots were a bit excessive.

Overall this is quite a tragic film and one of our party didn’t enjoy it at all. It was a tough watch at times but what I did appreciate is the enduring need to create art that some of the great artists have. As Vincent said in the film, “I paint to stop me thinking”.

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