Julian Schnabel, the director of, among other films, Basquiat and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, confirms his reputation as an expert in evading the conventions of biopics. In At Eternity’s Gate, the director sees in Van Gogh much more than an obsessed madman. The Dutch painter (Willem Dafoe, a deserving award winner at the Venice Festival) comes across as a sensitive melancholic with a first-class sense of humor. The instinctive sympathy that we feel toward Van Gogh allows us to take to heart all the more the situation facing an artist prevented by unjust fate from experiencing fame during his lifetime. The silent, contemplative nature of the film is made even more profound by the masterful cinematography. Instead of dazzling viewers with spectacular panoramas of the landscapes painted by the protagonist, Schnabel, in tandem with cinematographer Benoît Delhomme, preferred to use close-ups depicting the artist at work. The actors perform wonderfully in the film’s intimate atmosphere. In addition to the aforementioned Dafoe, Oscar Isaac is brilliant as Paul Gauguin, and Mads Mikkelsen appears as a priest who is a friend of Van Gogh’s.
Julian Schnabel was born in New York in 1951. He gained fame and critical acclaim as a painter following his debut exhibition in 1979. He was also one of the key figures in New York’s bohemian art scene in the 1980s. He started his film career in 1996 with Basquiat, in which he tells the story of the tragic fate of one of his friends. He was awarded the Best Director Award at the Cannes Festival in 2007 for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.
1996 Basquiat – taniec ze śmiercią / Basquiat
2000 Zanim zapadnie noc / Before Night Falls
2007 Motyl i skafander / Le scaphandre et le papillon / The Diving Bell and the Butterfly