The story of Vincent Van Gogh has been long documented on film. Back in 1956, “Lust for Life” gave Kirk Douglas one of the best roles of his career. Even last year, “Loving Vincent” brought a unique flare to the big screen with an animated oil painting film. It was a surprise hit and took home an Oscar nomination. Yet it feels like Julian Schnabel and Willem Dafoe might be the perfect combination to really tell Van Gogh’s story. The doomed artist struggled through most of his life and based on the first trailer for “At Eternity’s Gate,” Dafoe appears to be up to the task of playing the monumental artist.
The trailer gives us a great look at the two performances tasked with anchoring the film. Dafoe looks phenomenal, which matches much of the buzz coming out of Venice this year. The trailer gives Dafoe many good moments, and his desperation and frustration is palpable. Oscar Isaac also brings gravitas to the film. Isaac looks to be going toe-to-toe with Dafoe, which should only yield positive results Considering that Isaac is playing Paul Gauguin, a role that won Anthony Quinn an Oscar, it should be taken seriously.
Yet despite this tension in the film, there is an unmistakable feel that Schnabel may be one to watch. “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” broke through with the Academy, earning Schnabel a director nomination for his work. He continues to use visually unique camera work here, which has yielded a mixed response so far. The film could embrace the insanity of its lead, but regardless, it looks very pretty in the process. It’ll be interesting to see if Schnabel may find himself in a position to come along for the ride, especially if the film is a hit in America.