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

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


‘Age-Old Cities’ exhibition in Riyadh museum breathes new life into ancient sites 

Updated 19 April 2019
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‘Age-Old Cities’ exhibition in Riyadh museum breathes new life into ancient sites 

  • National Museum in Riyadh hosts digital show that tells the story of Mosul, Palmyra, Aleppo and Leptis Magna

JEDDAH: An exhibition that uses digital technology to revive the region’s ancient sites and civilizations that have been destroyed or are under threat due to conflict and terrorism opened at the National Museum in Riyadh on April 18.

“Age-Old Cities” tells the story of four historically significant cities that have been devastated by violence: Mosul in Iraq, Palmyra and Aleppo in Syria, and Leptis Magna in Libya. 

Using stunning giant-screen projections, virtual reality, archival documents and images, and video testimonials from inhabitants of the affected sites, the immersive exhibition transports visitors back in time and presents the cities as they were in their prime. 

It charts their journey from the origins of their ancient civilizations to their modern-day state, and presents plans for their restoration and repair. 

The exhibition has been organized by the Ministry of Culture in collaboration with the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris. Riyadh is the first stop outside the French capital on the exhibition’s global tour. 

The exhibition follows last month’s unveiling of the Kingdom’s new cultural vision, which included the announcement of several initiatives, including a new residency scheme for international artists to practice in the Kingdom and the establishment of the Red Sea International Film Festival. 

Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud, minister of culture, said: “I am delighted to welcome the ‘Age-Old Cities’ exhibition to Riyadh. 

“It highlights the importance of heritage preservation, particularly here in the Middle East, and the vulnerability of some of our historic sites. 

“It must be the responsibility of governments to put an end to this damage and neglect, and to put heritage at the heart of action, investment, and policy.

“I will be encouraging my fellow members of government to attend this eye-opening exhibition in our National Museum, and hope to work in the future with partners, governments and experts to do what we can to secure our region’s heritage.”

The exhibition carries a significant message about the importance of preserving and protecting these precious but fragile sites — one which resonates strongly in the week when one of the world’s most-famous heritage sites, Paris’ Notre-Dame Cathedral, went up in flames.