The uncut gem that is ‘At Eternity’s Gate’

Genevieve Esh

More stories from Genevieve Esh


At Eternity’s Gate starring Willem Dafoe as Vincent Van Gogh

We all know the name Vincent Van Gogh. Some may know his life story — including but not limited to cutting off his own ear and his descent into madness. Few know about the independent art film about his life and art: “At Eternity’s Gate.”

Spoilers ahead — you have been warned.

The movie is saturated with beautiful cinematography and conveys infinite palpable emotions from joy to sorrow and everything in between. It’s a must-see if you want to appreciate a gorgeous film. 

As an added bonus, you get to brag about having seen it like the pretentious self-proclaimed indie film buff we both know you are.

This cinematic masterpiece follows Van Gogh from the start of his painting career until his untimely death. That’s not a spoiler, you should’ve seen that coming since the man lived and died during the 19th century. 

The all-instrumental soundtrack by Tatiana Lisovskaya is worth the watch all on its own. It’s a bit of an outlier on my Spotify history because I listened to it religiously, but that’s how you know it’s good.

One special element of the film is its use of color. Like in a painting, color is symbolic. The movie uses yellows and blues, for example, to differentiate various periods of his life and accentuate different emotions from scene to scene.

The film is a beautifully executed depiction of the artist’s story. It uses the famous scenes he painted as settings in the movie while he paints them, sprinkled in with his major life events. 

You can so potently empathize with Vincent’s hardships and witness the beauty he managed to capture. You’ll watch how his art lives and evolves with him. It’s as if he lived within his paintings. All he ever wanted was to share that feeling with the world.

I believe Van Gogh would appreciate cinematic art being made to tell his story, more so than capitalist pop culture exploiting his art for a quick buck. Profit-seeking completely disregards the artist’s struggles, while movies work to tell his story.

Films such as these give Van Gogh a voice he wasn’t granted during his lifetime. It’s the next step down from the only other voice he had in life and even more so in death: his art.

One of the most potent scenes in the movie is essentially his funeral — mild spoilers ahead. His open casket sits in a room surrounded by his art. People wander by, only paying mind to his art and their acquiring of it. 

No one addresses the man whose life was cut short. People who overlooked him in life descended like vultures to his death, scavenging for a stake in his legacy. This was the most moving theme in the movie — in my opinion.

Now go watch this movie by any means necessary, you won’t regret it. And if you somehow do regret it, I will relinquish your film-buff title without hesitation. This movie is a masterpiece.


Esh can be reached at [email protected]