Feb 11, 2019
EDDY TAIT aka MAMA BANANA
I sit beneath the dappled light of an elm tree, the gentle breeze is moving the shadows about like a disco ball. I am grateful for the bright sky, clear and crisp; the colour reminiscent of Vincent Van Gogh’s famous Sunflowers painting.
The reality is that I am on a medium strip in Melbourne’s Italian quarter, Carlton, outside Cinema Nova, surrounded by loud, jarring roadworks. This is my the first stop after attending the prescreening of Transmission Films, At Eternity’s Gate, directed by Julian Schnabel.
Stepping into the mind and shoes of 18th-century Dutch post-impressionist painter, Vincent Van Gogh, this film is a work of art in itself. The cinematography is visually compelling, as Schnabel creates the sense that you are in the film. The camera work is unsteady and it feels as if you are the one walking through the wheat fields, lying on the soil, seeing the beautiful landscapes in real-time with your very own eyes.
It is hard to believe that Van Gogh wasn’t placed in a time machine and teleported to 2018 to re-live the last few days of his life for the film. Willem Dafoe’s performance is impeccable, inviting the audience to experience the full spectrum of intimate emotion from fear to distraught anxiety, to ecstatic and triumphant joy. The supporting actors equally as finessed and convincing in their respective roles.
The approach is very empathetic to Van Gogh’s perspective and it is as if his truth is delivered. You are able to understand the impact of his ‘madness’ from the public’s point of view and his own. Vincent believed in himself as an artist. He believed that God put him on this earth to be a painter. His peers did not understand or value his work, Van Gogh surmised, “Maybe God made me a painter for the people who aren’t born yet”.
Vincent found happiness and relief in nature and he felt compelled to share his unique view of what he saw with others despite their harsh criticism.
Although there is an underlying feeling of sadness for his circumstance in the final days of his life, the film inspires an alternative outlook to the natural world. It feels a privilege to have an insight into the vision and mind of such a great and groundbreaking painter.
Post-film, the pull to be amongst nature is commanding and I feel relieved to be sitting in the grass, lingering a little longer to take in the details. The soft flutter of a blade of grass, the sound of the rustling foliage. I aspire to take a leaf out of Van Gogh’s art diary and make a pact to myself to take time to escape from my head and look to nature, even for a few seconds each day.
At Eternity’s Gate is showing in Australian cinema’s from February 14, 2019.