(Release Info U.K. schedule:
■ Saturday 16 March 11.00am - Oxford | Ripon | Soho | Victoria | Wimbledon
■ Sunday 17 March 11.00am - Canterbury | Colchester | Knutsford | Mayfair | Richmond | Sheffield
■ Sunday 24 March 11.00am - Aldgate | Bloomsbury)
"At Eternity's Gate"
A look at the life of painter Vincent van Gogh (William Dafoe) during the time he lives in Arles and Auvers-sur-Oise, France. On February 20th 1888, Vincent van Gogh arrives in Arles. Before that, he lived in Paris for two years, where he developed a thoroughly modern style of painting. During the more than fourteen months which he spent in Arles, he creates a multitude of paintings and drawings, many ofwhich are nowadays seen as highlights of late 19th century art. Tired of the busy city life and the cold northern climate, Van Gogh heads South in search of warmer weather, and above all to find the bright light and colours of Provence so as to further modernize his new way of painting. On October 23rd, Paul Gauguin (Oscar Isaac) comes to Arles. The two artists live and paint together for two months. It's a time filled with great mutual inspiration, but in the end their characters and artistic temperaments clashed. On December 23rd, Van Gogh sufferers a mental breakdown, probably a first sign of his illness, and cut off a part of his left ear. Gauguin leaves, and Van Gogh’s dream of a studio with other painters is shattered. He spent some more time in the hospital after a second breakdown in February 1889. He continues to work in Arles for a few more months, but has himself interned voluntarily in the asylum in Saint-Rémy on May 8th 1889.
It's a deep dive into the emotional core of Vincent Van Gogh. It's the story of a man who's foremost a human being. Vincent goes through this mix of creative explosion and personal implosion. He falls in love with 'The South Of France" all over again and take it in with all of his senses on overdrive. He's ferocious in his desire to touch God through color, through light, through perspective, through responding fully to the landscape and his surrounding world. He's trying to capture a reality that to him felt closer to God than what we normally see. When Vincent is communing with nature, he’s a rich man and it doesn’t matter if he’s sold paintings or not. Van Gogh has a depth afection for his brother Theo (Rupert Friend), the one person he could always talk to about art and life, in pleasure or despair. He cares for him in so many ways. It's a very loving relationship. And Theo sees in his brother what other people didn’t yet see, never wavering in his confdence of his brother’s talent. Vincent struggles in many ways throughout his life, which is evidenced in his letters to Theo.
The story includes another 'immortal' painter; Paul Gauguin, who joined Van Gogh in Arles, becoming for a time his housemate. He's a central figure in Van Gogh’s later life. Much has been made of their tempestuous relationship, and it's role in Van Gogh’s apparent bouts of madness. What’s most in evidence is that Van Gogh and Gauguin both paint a lot in those weeks. Van Gogh paints from models, but Gauguin paints from memory and imagination. It's two diferent ways of seeing and we imagined how they might have talked to one another about those diferences. Gauguin is someone who recognizes an artistic and intellectual equal in Van Gogh. In most movies, Gauguin has been shown as sort of a jerk who couldn’t handle Van Gogh. Gauguin wrote some very beautiful things to and about Van Gogh after he left Arles. There’s a letter that Gauguin wrote to Van Gogh, when he's in the asylum saying he wanted to trade a painting with him. And that letter is really the best review that Van Gogh could get, because Van Gogh cared about what Paul thought. And the fact is that Gauguin cared about Van Gogh, too.
This time Gauguin and Van Gogh spent in Arles has taken on such mythical proportions because the outpouring of creativity is so condensed and pressurized. Van Gogh is so alone much of the time, so locked in his own brain, that Gauguin in that moment is really almost a lifeline for him, the one person who could maybe understand some of what he's trying to do. When you see him out in that feld smiling while pouring dirt on his face, he's not a poor man. He's a man who feels he's in the right place at the right time, in complete connection with being alive. They’re literally sitting right next to each other, but Van Gogh is painting what he sees in front him in his own wild way and Gauguin is completely inventing something. They’re both grappling with what it means to be a painter and why they do things as they do. The film is a portrait of anybody who has ever sat down to create something, whether you’re a painter or not. In the film, Vincent’s audience is not born yet, but that doesn’t stop him from doing what he was compelled to do.
This movie is an accumulation of scenes based on painter Vincent van Gogh’s letters, common agreement about events in his life that parade as facts, hearsay, and scenes that are just plain invented. The making of art gives an opportunity to make a palpable body that expresses a reason to live, if such a thing exists. Even with all the violence and tragedy that has been associated with Van Gogh’s life, there's no doubt, his was a life lived rich with magic, profound communication with nature and the wonder of being. His unique perspective is one whose belief and vision make visible and physical the inexpressible. This is not a forensic biography about the painter. It's about what it's to be an artist. Can a movie speak to, in it's own kinetic, time-altering way, the intense swirl of feeling and aliveness that goes into painting? When you stand in front of a particular work, each one tells you something. But after you look at 30 paintings, the experience becomes something more. It becomes an accumulation of all those diferent feelings put together. Each event you see happening to Vincent aggregates, it feels as if this entire period of his life is happening to you in a moment. Van Gogh in the last years of his life was totally aware of the fact that he had a new vision of the world, that he was no longer painting the same way as other painters.
The film captures some things that have often evaded movies about artists. Van Gogh’s final days is a view into the artist unlike any other. This is a story that pursues what the act of creation, that visceral, searing magic that defes all words and obliterates time, feels like from the inside, the strenuous physicality of painting and the devotional intensity of the artist’s life, especially the way painters see. The result is a kaleidoscopic and surprising movie experience, one that becomes just as much about the role of the artist in the world, about being alive and reaching for the eternal, as it's about the beauty and wonder Van Gogh left behind, never knowing his profound impact. The Van Gogh seen in the film comes directly out of the personal response to his paintings, not just what people have written about him. The film does draw on letters, biographies, the legends we’ve all heard as well as the innumerable perspectives to the history. But at heart, this is a work of sheer imagination, an ode to the artistic spirit and to having a conviction so absolute that you must devote your life to it.
It’s a film about a painter, Van Gogh, in which the fil tries not to provide a biography of Van Gogh, that would be absurd, it’s so well known, but to dream up scenes that might have taken place, in which Van Gogh might have participated, might have taken part, in the course of which he might have spoken, but which history does not record. The film goes beyond a classic biopic. It's truly a painter’s film, the vision of an artist giving us an insight into the process of artistic creation. If you look at Van Gogh’s paintings and drawings you see a view of someone who's far away from society but in the middle of nature. We needed to take his walk and follow his physically demanding path, in order to see what he saw. Silence is as important as dialogue, landscape as much as portraiture. As you keep walking you get pushed a little further and further, until you can see past what you thought you could see, and maybe even see what he saw. We all have a terminal case of life. Painting is a practice that in some ways addresses death, because it's related to life yet diferent from the rest of life, so it gives you access to this other place. Art can transgress death.