Aleksandra Bzdzikot




Review of "At Eternity's Gate" . Van Gogh's painting of Eternity.

When I saw a film poster about this movie I knew I would want to see it. Not only because of Willem Dafoe playing the main role. As an art lover and painter myself, I am inspired to read the biographies of other painters to discover their lives, the challenges they had to face and the red vibrant color of their passion that they pursued notwithstanding the pain, hatred, poverty or other circumstances. 



Willem Dafoe as Van Gogh

First of all, I must say the choice of Willem Dafoe playing Vincent was a controversial one. Van Gogh died at the age of 37, while Dafoe is 63 at the moment.The age gap would seem too big at a first glance. Still, I think he did a great job in the movie. When you compare Vincent's photos and his autoportraits to Willem Dafoe, you will see a striking similarity. Dafoe was able to show the emotional side of Van Gogh together with his great passion to paint. He was true in his role. His physicality (and similarity to van Gogh) and expressiveness of his gestures, feverish eyes and attitude create a memorable interpretation of how Van Gogh truly was. 


What's the movie about?

Let's start from the title. Maybe you didn't know but Vincent Van Gogh created a painting entitled "At Eternity's Gate". You can see it below. 

I think it can be a hint in interpeting the movie, which shows the decline of Van Gogh' s sanity, which eventually leads to his death in a young age. 



The film is not a typical biography drama. Many of the biographical facts were skipped. The movie focuses on the time when Van Gogh came to Arles, to the south of France to find new vibrant colors of the southern mediterranean to employ in his paintings.

We observe his every day struggle to pay for the room and food (his younger brother Theo was sending him money). In the small city of Arles the locals didn't appreciate his painting, which they regarded as strange, twisted or bringing in nothing new. 



We see his friendship with Paul Gaugin, who called paintings of Van Gogh "sculptures", because of the thickness of applied paint. Also, the relationship with his brother Theo was portrayed as a loving and caring one. I am sure Vincent must have felt bad, knowing that his younger brother supports him financially and that he was not able to sell any of his paintings to support himself. 


Van Gogh's painting of Eternity

"At Eternity's Gate" is a feast for your senses. Beautiful paysages, forests, nature, southern light - it's all in there. What I particularly liked about this movie is that it shows the process of painting. That it focuses on showing the passion, the thrill, the urgent need to paint, whcih can be compared to the need of drinking water on a desert. 


Van Gogh through his painting work tried to stay stane and at the same time release his inner demons. He had frequent eposides of depression, paralyzing anxiety and symptoms of bipolar disorder. It seemed that painting was the only way he could transfer his pain and emotions out on a canvas. It was an activity which soothed his pain, even just for a while. 


Vincent produced 860 oil paintings and 1,300 drawings and sketches throughout his 37-year old lifetime. That's quite a number, don't you think? None of them was sold when he was alive. Only after his death the painter of dazzling yellows and hallucinatory blues became seen as a unique artist.


In 2018 one of his paintings was sold for over 7 mln euros. He is present in all art musuems worldwide and his history is taught at school and widely known. 


Van Gogh said in the movie that a flat landscape is eternity. What he was later doing - he was transferring his own definition of eternity into his landscape paintings, which survived until contemporary times. Eternal paintings with eternity depicted. 


I highly recommend you to see this movie and learn more about Van Gogh. 


Drawing workshops in Kunsthaus Zurich 

On 27th March I lead drawing workshops at Kunsthaus Zurich where we will sketch one of the portraits of Van Gogh, which he created during his stay in Arles.  Hurry up! Last tickets are available here:










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