Perfectly scored in airy somber piano melodies, impeccably locationed with artful Arles/South France flower-laden cinematography, and career Dafoe performance as the haunted, gifted, & psychologically-complex master post-impressionist. 9.3/10.
Plot Synopsis: Tormented artist Vincent van Gogh spends his final years in Arles, France, painting masterworks of the natural world that surrounds him.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
Official CLC Review
Perfectly scored in airy balanced piano melodies, impeccably locationed with artful Arles/South France flower-laden cinematography, & centered by an uncanny Dafoe performance as the haunted, psychologically complex, prodigal, misunderstood, self-discovering master-impressionist. I was absolutely floored by the sight of such a beautifully poignant, poetic homage to the life, tragedy, and works of Van Gogh. Never before has there been such an elegantly-crafted critique and psychoanalysis of the man as At Eternity’s Gate, not even 2017’s Loving Vincent I raved about as well being an entirely hand-painted film unlike any other in history (despite the screenplay leaving a bit to be desired and story not as strong as the visual journey the art took you on).
Willem Dafoe gives a *career-defining* performance as Vincent with uncanny resemblance, an acting range unparalleled in its portrayal of the highs to unquenchable lows of the human psyche Van Gogh experienced in his tragic lifetime, and authentic (swirling) madness and heart he had to struggle to maintain in the face of almost universal rejection and dismissal. The script is absolutely phenomenal diving head-in and embracing the pure psychological intrigue and levity affecting this man and how it contributed and fueled such masterworks of the human experience in his paintings – everything from the Shakespeare blurred lines/mystery parallels to Vincent’s fascination with nature and realism-made-unrealism over imagination to the before-his-time theory he was absolutely spot-on about, not a stone is left unturned in this wholly moving and encapsulating character study executed with sheer *brilliance* by Schnabel and his team.
The scoring is absolute perfection as well; one of the best scorings I’ve heard perhaps this decade or even millennium in how its airy, light piano melodies rife of emotion and somber tones match the at-times happy-go-lucky, at-times depression-laden life he lived until the fateful day and incident in the alleyway. The cinematography is also arresting on the eyes visually with impeccably authentic researched locational settings taking us to where he actually painted some of his greatest works like in Arles, Dr. Gachet at the asylum, and Southern France flower-laden fields, and even the supporting performances are stellar from Oscar Isaac’s Gauguin and his important but rarely even mentioned relationship with Vincent to Mads Mikkelsen’s priest’s religious analysis and brother Theo’s heartbreaking interplay and involvement in bringing Van Gogh’s art to the world.
The only light flaw to be found in this beautiful canvas is occasional shaky cam in its POV shots that still work as a whole and push the envelope but can become headache-y and needed some stabilizing support, plus slight overbelaboring of the bullying. But overall, At Eternity’s Gate is a masterwork sublime in its psychoanalysis of one of the greatest and most psychologically complex painters of All-Time, with artful cinematography, phenomenal scoring, and a performance-of-a-lifetime by Dafoe that should easily win the Academy Award for 2018. THE definitive Van Gogh and impressionism film.
Official CLC Score: 9.3/10