Subjective Gaze in At Eternity’s Gate

“God is nature, and nature is beauty.”

Julian Schnabel’s At Eternity’s Gate, a biopic of Vincent Van Gogh (Willem Defoe), is a lush and pastoral film, imbued with the same depth and tactility that characterised the artist’s paintings. It is full of ruminations on beauty and nature, such as the above quote, but it curiously seems to argue against those things as a salve or saviour; although they made Van Gogh’s life more tolerable, and deeply informed his art, they were ineffective in saving Van Gogh from his inner torpor. Ambiguously, and perhaps wisely, the film doesn’t seek to pathologise or categorise, with a modern lens, whatever it was that afflicted the great artist, and instead simply shows scenes from his life as Van Gogh might himself have experienced them.

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