Film Review: Painting emotional picture of artist Van Gogh’s fractured mind

Willem Dafoe plays Vincent Van Gogh. (Supplied)
Updated 06 February 2019

Film Review: Painting emotional picture of artist Van Gogh’s fractured mind

  • The movie follows the Dutch artist’s battle with his mental health as he struggles to sell his works or art while living in the rural French town of Arles
  • Probably the best aspect of the film – now screening at the artsy Cinema Akil, in Dubai – is the direction and cinematography

DUBAI: American director Julian Schnabel’s latest film “At Eternity’s Gate,” gives a unique insight into the fractured mind of painter Vincent Van Gogh during the final years of his life.
The movie follows the Dutch artist’s battle with his mental health as he struggles to sell his works or art while living in the rural French town of Arles.
Willem Dafoe superbly portrays the post-impressionist painter’s broken character as he gradually loses his grip on reality. The actor’s Oscar nomination for the role was clearly well-deserved.
The ever-charismatic Oscar Isaac co-stars as French artist Paul Gauguin, his customary carefree bravado providing the perfect foil and comic relief for the dramatic Dafoe.
Probably the best aspect of the film – now screening at the artsy Cinema Akil, in Dubai – is the direction and cinematography. Apart from the stunning landscapes and wide shots, Schnabel’s unconventional filming methods cleverly take the viewer on a trip into Van Gogh’s mind.
Using a hand-held, shaky camera technique to illustrate the instability of the artist’s mental state, Schnabel forces viewers to both wince at and empathize with Van Gogh.
As his journey moves forward, the screen noticeably splits into a clear top and a blurry unfocused bottom, as if the camera lens cracked midway through filming, the effect giving a disturbing insight into Van Gogh’s confused and diminishing outlook on life.
The movie title itself is the main theme of the film, as his paintings capture scenes and keep them alive for eternity. Van Gogh – as if knowing his fate – begins to reflect upon his life and mortality after struggling to get the appreciation his work deserves. Some critics of the day even described his paintings as “unpleasant.”
Beautifully shot, directed and acted, Van Gogh’s struggle with his mental health and the outside world can be summed up through the intense, emotional monologues that are sprinkled throughout the movie. One line stands out: “There’s something inside me, I don’t know what it is. What I see nobody else sees…I wanted so much to share what I see. Now I just think about my relationship to eternity.”


Stars of the 'The Kitchen' movie talk to Arab News

“The Kitchen,” stars Melissa McCarthy, Elisabeth Moss, Tiffany Haddish and Domhnall Gleeson. (Supplied)
Updated 22 August 2019

Stars of the 'The Kitchen' movie talk to Arab News

DUBAI: “The Kitchen,” starring Melissa McCarthy, Elisabeth Moss, Tiffany Haddish and Domhnall Gleeson, is an ode to the ever-popular gangster movie, but also a reimagining. Three women who can’t pay the bills after their mobster husbands go to prison decide to take over the organization themselves — becoming violent criminals in the process. Gone is the Don, in his place are the Donnas.

“I love mobster movies, they’re some of my favorite movies, but I think I always watched them and thought, ‘Where am I in that story? Where am I represented?’ I never am. The opportunity to put those two things together — a real authentic, gritty mob story that has interesting, flawed, human women at the center of it felt like an incredible opportunity,” writer/director Andrea Berloff tells Arab News.

Andrea Berloff at the premier of "The Kitchen" in Hollywood. (AFP)

In casting, Berloff went against type — McCarthy and Haddish are best-known for comedic roles, and Gleeson’s roles in “Star Wars” and the Oscar-nominated “Brooklyn” suggested anything but a gangster.

“If I’d read the script I wouldn’t have thought of me for the role, so I was thrilled that Andrea for some reason thought that I could do a good job. The good ones are a surprise to you as opposed to something you track down — or that’s the way it’s been for me so far. I never thought I’d really want to play a killer in a mob movie. When this script came along, that’s what I found a bit scary and interesting,” says Gleeson.

Domhnall Gleeson at the premier of "The Kitchen" in Hollywood. (AFP)

Like Berloff, Moss has always loved the genre — especially the women in legendary projects such as “The Godfather” and “The Sopranos.” While the women of “The Kitchen” are different in many ways from those groundbreaking characters, they carry on their spirit.

“It’s something that we’ve seen in various mobster projects. With Diane Keaton and Edie Falco, and these incredible portrayals, I always find them the most interesting parts of those projects — to see the effect that that lifestyle has on women is really interesting,” Moss tells Arab News.

Elisabeth Moss loved the genre of the movie. (AFP)

McCarthy wasn’t as focused on the history of women in crime fiction as her co-star. Instead, the character and the script were rich enough that she was able to link it to her own life quite easily.

“I didn’t reference other movies,” she says. “For me, when a script it that good, and that complete, and that fully realized, I try to delve into the character itself. I thought about how I related as a mother of two, and what does that mean when you’re just trying to survive and try to take care of your kids. I don’t look to other movies as a guide — I’m a big movie fan, but I prepare a little more solo.”

Tiffany Haddish at the premier of "The Kitchen" in Hollywood. (AFP)

“I’m the same way,” says Haddish.

“It just seemed easy. It’s that great thing. Especially with Andrea running the ship, we all saw the same movie, which was really great, and we all naturally get along,” says McCarthy.

 Melissa McCarthy at the premier of "The Kitchen" in Hollywood. (AFP)

This is Berloff’s debut as a director (she was nominated for an Oscar for writing the 2016 hit “Straight Outta Compton”) and she hadn’t originally planned on helming the movie herself. But she found she felt so passionate about the story that she wanted to oversee the whole project.

“There are times when I write a script and I’m happy to hand it off to someone else and let them run with it, but in this case I felt like I had so much more to say about these characters, and this world, and these themes,” she explains. “I went in to pitch as a director and started saying to them, ‘Here’s what’s not in the script that you don’t know.’”