(Sketch of Van Gogh Sunflowers by Roxanne Zuniga Blackwood)
Happy Monday to you! I had the opportunity last week to watch "At Eternity's Gate" with a friend at Cinema 21 and I wanted to share a little bit about my experience with you. There is something delicious about watching a movie in the middle of the week on a "school night" while everyone else is getting ready for bed and the theater room is occupied by only a handful of viewers. I am so glad I was invited to go see it because I may have not watched it until much later and the experience would have been inferior as it likely would have been watched by way of streaming video.
As a fan of Van Gogh and a painter, I have to say this movie was magnificent. I saw "Loving Vincent" and enjoyed it but I found it more visually interesting than I did deeply moving - it reminded me of the movie Waking Life but the Van Gogh version. Going back to "At Eternity's Gate," this movie did an amazing job of helping you imagine what it might have been like to walk in Van Gogh's shoes. There were many moments where it felt like you were inside of an animatron of Van Gogh that was guided by him and at times it seemed as if you were inside his skull looking out of his eye sockets and out into his world. The sights and sounds of nature through the supposed eyes of this gifted painter was a visual treat.
The best thing about this movie is that it doesn't sugarcoat Vincent. The romanticizing of his madness doesn't play a role in this movie as Willem Dafoe does an excellent job of portraying Vincent in the sometimes unpleasant, unsavory, rage-filled ways that suffering (with mental illness) can sometimes present itself. One of the most touching scenes of the movie is when Gaugin leaves Vincent in Arles and Van Gogh breaks down like a baby. It was uncomfortable watching a grown man act this way and it made him appear emotionally underdeveloped because in society we teach men not to show such strong emotions in the form of crying. It made him look simple, like he lacked a grownup skill of regulating oneself and it made me feel bad for him, pity him even. It isn't fair that men aren't allowed to lose their sh*t like this without being judged by society. I can appreciate a sobbing man, being vulnerable (this should happen more often), it was just difficult to watch Vincent throw a tantrum the way a toddler cries when it's time for a friend to leave and go home. His desperation and clinginess was heartbreaking. Another touching scene in the film is when Vincent's brother Theo visits him in the hospital and curls into bed with him to cuddle the way children do. It was an unusual sight and it tugged on my heartstrings as someone with a sibling. It showed a deep, intimate and loving expression that isn't often portrayed in movies or seen in daily life amongst adults. It was a reminder of the immense love and support Vincent had through his brother. Would Vincent Van Gogh's legacy have been possible without him? This is doubtful.
I won't give away much more about this movie because I don't want to spoil it for you - but you must see it! Willem Dafoe lives and breathes the role and it is a sight to see.
Do you believe Van Gogh committed suicide or do you believe the alternative theory that he was shot by a kid? Do you believe that he cut his own ear off or was it Gauguin who lopped it off? I would love to find out what you think! There is so much room for speculation and extrapolation!
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