By Andrew Harwood
People love stories. More specifically, people love stories about other people.
Films have been telling stories about fictitious characters since the dawn of cinema itself. The flip side of those are the non-fiction works that tell the story of famous, important historical figures.
These films are biopics.
The biopic, or “biographical film,” is a film that dramatizes the life of a non-fiction or historically-relevant individual. Sometimes falling into the subgenres of historical, crime, drama or other genres, biopics are immersive, and usually informative, experiences. Well … those done well are this, at least.
Some examples of great biopics are “Raging Bull,” “Chaplin,” “The Imitation Game,” “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “The King” and, our film of the week, “At Eternity’s Gate.”
Directed by Julian Schnabel and written by Schnabel, Louise Kugelberg and Jean-Claude Carriere, “At Eternity’s Gate” details the final year of renowned painter Vincent van Gogh’s life. Taking place primarily in the south of France, the film delves into the mind and life of the creative, yet deeply-troubled, van Gogh.
Filled with stunning imagery of the French countryside, remarkable color schemes, innovatively-unconventional camera work, a mesmerizing performance by Willem Dafoe and a perfect score, “At Eternity’s Gate” begs the viewer to examine and seek inspiration from the true beauties around them. Schnabel and Dafoe worked together on physicality and expression, along with the brilliantly-pigmented natural scenery to embody the artist’s wanting to “paint what I feel and feel what I paint.”
With Dafoe as van Gogh, Rupert Friend as van Gogh’s brother Theo and Oscar Isaac as van Gogh’s friend/artistic rival Paul Gauguin, “At Eternity’s Gate” delivers a fascinating, clever story revolving around van Gogh’s last year living, culminating his alleged tragic suicide.