If art is truly to be unique and great then it can’t be easily reproducible.
If every frame of At Eternity’s Gate, a film about Vincent Van Gough directed by Julian Schnabel, is striving to be a reproduction of VVG’s art, a ray of inspiration on his vision, art, and process than it negates the art itself.
Over 162k Van Goghs becomes postcards not art. If Wilem Dafoe can learn to draw a Van Gogh line, create his vibrant hues then where is the masterpiece and greatness in it?
At Eternity’s Gate suffers from the same weakness that all films about great artists have: they need to show everything about what made the art great- the technique, the arguments, the process, it’s place in history, the loyalties and betrayals of friendship. There is no mystery and without mystery there is just the proletarian process of commerce, no uniqueness, no revelatory vision, or way of seeing, no masterpiece created in the individual soul.
Art is in the experience, not the understanding. Anything great is a rarity, a miracle, something that shouldn’t and couldn’t be explained, defined, tamed to confine and answer the questions of the mind.
Give the viewer the agony and ecstasy. They’ll fill in the mystery.
All photos courtesy of CBS Films.