I swear to God this review for AT ETERNITY’S GATE will be short. I swear. The only reason I saw this movie is because Willem Dafoe is up for a Golden Globe, its been said that he has a very high chance for a Oscar nom, and I heard it is his best performance to date. If all of us was given an actor’s name and had to name our top three favorite performances, and I was given Willem Dafoe, I would say Boondock Saints, The Florida Project, and definitely this film. This is some of his best work if not THE best. The movie itself is not a whole biography of Vincent Van Gogh (the title of the film is the title to one of his pieces of art work), just an “imagining” of the painter’s last mentally unstable and sort of psychotic years. Basically where he painted a shit load of painting in a short time period, cut off his ear due to the loss of a friendship with another famous painter (Paul Gauguin, played by Oscar Isaac), and then eventually shot himself? The question mark on that is because the movie imagines how he got shot in the stomach a different way other than that it is historically recorded that he shot himself due to his mental instability.
The movie is good. I would probably never watch it again, but it was good just by the fact that Willem Dafoe’s acting is incredible in it. If you look at the poster you’ll see other famous names such as Mads Mikkelsen, Rupert Friend and the previously mentioned Oscar Isaac, but going to the film for them would be a waste of time considering that all of them only have one or two short scenes. This is the Dafoe show, and he completely rocks the house. I did like the storytelling aspect as well, kind of imagining what Vincent Van Gogh was going through when he was in a mental institution and then just roaming around the country side drawing and painting. I like how it wasn’t a by the number biography of the end of his life. What I did like however was some of the aesthetic and weird camera choices. Some of the visual artistry in this film is simply beautiful, and then other times it seems like the director his having a stroke while holding the camera. Sometimes the shots had wayyyyyyy too much shaky cam at random intervals, sometimes the camera would travel weirdly and unpleasantly and too close to the other actors faces, and at one point some of the visuals are muddle because it seems like the camera cracked in half as the bottom have of some of the shots are blurry as fuck.
And I get that it was probably to represent Vincent Van Gogh’s frame of mind, but the inconsistency and awkward timing of those decisions kind of annoyed the fuck out of me. But if you are a Willem Dafoe fan, and I am, this is required viewing at least once. He’s incredible in it and if nominated for an Oscar, it will be well deserved. The film itself just doesn’t have any staying power to ever be mentioned again by me, other than a quick reference if someone asked me that 3 best performances question on Dafoe. Aka, wait until you can somehow see this for free. I did it, this is my shortest one in a long time, hooray!!!