Van Gogh was murdered claims new film at Venice

A visitor takes a photo of a self-portrait of Vincent Van Gogh at the Winter Masterpieces exhibition Van Gogh and the Seasons in Melbourne on April 27, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 04 September 2018
0

Van Gogh was murdered claims new film at Venice

  • At Eternity’s Gate, starring Willem Dafoe as the tortured genius, was premiered Monday at the Venice film festival
  • Director Oscar Schnabel said the film was not meant to be a factual biopic, because ‘all history is a lie’

VENICE: A new film about the artist Vincent Van Gogh claims that he was murdered rather than having shot himself.
“At Eternity’s Gate” starring Willem Dafoe as the tortured genius, was premiered Monday at the Venice film festival.
In it the painter is shot after a struggle with local youths near the village of Auvers-sur-Oise outside Paris, where the artist spent his final months in 1890.
He died 36 hours later after staggering back to the local inn in the dark.
While most historians agree that Van Gogh killed himself, renowned painter and Oscar-nominated director Julian Schnabel fuels a theory that he was killed in the film.
Legendary French screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere — who co-wrote the script with Schnabel — said there “is absolutely no proof he killed himself. Do I believe that Van Gogh killed himself? Absolutely not!”
“He came back to the auberge with a bullet in his stomach and nobody ever found the gun or his painting materials,” Carriere added.
“What we have been fighting against is the dark romantic legend of Van Gogh. In the last period of his life Van Gogh was working constantly. Every day he made a new work,” he said.
His final weeks, when he painted the “Portrait of Dr. Gachet” — which set a world record when it sold for $82.5 million (€77 million) in 1990 — were “not at all sad,” the writer argued.
Schnabel insisted that a man who had painted 75 canvasses in his 80 days at Auvers-sur-Oise was unlikely to be suicidal.
The theory that Van Gogh did not commit suicide was first raised in a 2011 biography of the painter by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith.
Schnabel said neither the gun nor “the painting material he had that day were ever found. It is strange to bury your shit if you are committing suicide.”
“At Eternity’s Gate” is also likely to open a new front in the row over Van Gogh’s “lost” sketchbook, which purportedly resurfaced after 126 years in 2016 and was authenticated by two eminent art historians last year.
Veteran British expert Ronald Pickvance claimed the book was “the most revolutionary discovery in the history of Van Gogh” studies.
But the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam hotly disputes its provenance and dismissed the drawings as fakes.
The book, originally a ledger from the Cafe de la Gare in Arles where Van Gogh stayed at various times between 1888 and 1890, features prominently in the film.
Schnabel and his team examined the drawings for themselves with the director pressing Dafoe’s hand down into them, he said, to “force a transmission — a connection between me and Van Gogh.”
It clearly worked, with Defoe, who looks uncannily like the Van Gogh the film, already tipped for the best actor prize at Venice.
The actor said in shooting the film in the fields around Arles where the artist painted and in the asylum at Saint-Remy where he was held, “we flirted with Van Gogh’s ghost.”
Schnabel said the film was not meant to be a factual biopic, because “all history is a lie.”
“I don’t care if the notebook is real or not real, if he killed himself or didn’t kill himself. It’s irrelevant. But in the film, it is nice to know there is another set of possibilities ...”
The film was also a chance for “me to say things about painting... and it was a lot of fun to speak through Von Gogh.”
The ebullient New Yorker also wanted to correct the “bad wrap” that Van Gogh’s friend Paul Gauguin gets from history.
Van Gogh may have cut off his ear when the painter announced he was leaving him to return to Paris, but “Gauguin really cared about him,” Schnabel said.
“He is portrayed usually as an arsehole. Anthony Quinn (in the 1957 film “Lust for Life”) played him like that, but he wasn’t.”


Cirque du Soleil in Saudi Arabia: The perfect tribute to a rich culture

Crique du Soleil in Riyadh. (Arab News)
Updated 24 September 2018
0

Cirque du Soleil in Saudi Arabia: The perfect tribute to a rich culture

  • Crique du Soleil created a spectacular show in Riyadh
  • They paid tribute to Saudi culture and heritage

RIYADH: The circus — a place that is almost synonymous with joy and delight. Since time immemorial, circuses have been places of celebration and glee, and few as much as the premier name in the industry: Cirque du Soleil.

The show has had a devoted fan in me since 2006, when I attended a performance of their production “Quidam” and my definition of the word “circus” was turned upside-down. Their unique approach to art, performance, costumes and music has secured their status as a household name and a benchmark for all other circus shows to be measured against.

On Sunday night, Saudi Arabia’s National Day, the circus brought their incredible acrobatics to Riyadh’s King Fahad Stadium and it turned out to be a night to remember.



Prior to the event, Cirque’s Vice President of Creation Daniel Fortin offered little in the way of spoilers but hinted that we would see something the likes of which we never had before. With the promises of exclusive new acts, music, costumes and stage tricks piquing my excitement, I joined a throng of green-and white-clad spectators flooding the stadium. Performing to a sold-out crowd, the show kicked off at exactly 8.30 p.m. and the magic truly began.

Barely five minutes into the show, something stole over me as I settled into the rhythm of the music, something I saw flickering over the faces of those in the crowd around me: Recognition. We were seeing ourselves, our identity, echoed back at us, but with a twist. We saw ourselves through someone else’s eyes — someone respectful and admiring.



As a Saudi youth today, it has become an unfortunately common occurrence to face negativity from various outsiders, born of ignorance or fear. It has become dreary and repetitive to have to continually defend my people and my culture from those who have no wish to understand us.

But at this show? I saw my country once more through the eyes of an outsider, but this time, it was different. I saw my culture and my heritage lauded, celebrated, delicately fused with that tangible Cirque du Soleil flair. The attention to detail was careful, almost loving, but also daring and outlandish. It was a glorious fusion of classic Saudi aesthetics with the ethereal, bizarre beauty of Cirque du Soleil.


The symbolism was not always obvious, sometimes it was subtle, constrained to the beat of a drum or hidden in a snatch of song. Other times, it was blatant and bold, in the sloping hump of an elegantly clumsy camel costume, or the billowing of the Bedouin Big Top in the gentle breeze. And yet, unmistakeably, I felt the Saudi influences in every note of the performance. It felt like an homage, and yet it did nothing to diminish its own identity. It remained unquestionably a Cirque du Soleil performance, only below the usual circus frippery, there was a ribbon of something else that lay coiled beneath the surface. Something bright, vibrant green. Saudi green.

The spectacle rounded off with an astonishing display of fireworks, so plentiful that for a moment, the sky glowed bright as day. To me, each one felt like a promise fulfilled. A dream achieved. A miracle witnessed. Here, on my own home soil, it was the perfect tribute to a rich and vivid culture.