At Eternity's Gate
Just over a year after Loving Vincent explored Vincent van Gogh’s final days through stunning hand-painted animation, Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) cycles through many of the same details with considerably less narrative and visual creativity in At Eternity’s Gate.
By sticking his shaky, handheld camera all up in star Willem Dafoe’s face and taking a similar approach in filming such performers as Rupert Friend (playing Vincent’s brother Theo) and Oscar Isaac (fellow painter Paul Gauguin), the director clearly thinks he’s crafted a stunning artistic means of profiling an important figure, though the result is more distracting than engaging.
Focusing on the last stretch of Vicent’s life, spent in the French towns of Arles and Auvers-sur-Oise, the film offers fascinating glimpses into his creative process, painstakingly recreated by a committed Dafoe’s brushwork, and captures the pressures of the art world and its effects on his already fragile mental state.
But as the painter’s existence unravels and new characters such as Mad Mikkelsen’s priest briefly inject fresh energy and concepts, the intrusive camerawork remains an irritant, setting At Eternity’s Gate apart from safer biopics, yet rarely if ever justifying the risk.
Grade: C-plus. Rated PG-13. Starts Dec. 14 at Grail Moviehouse
(Photo: CBS Films)