Published on March 26th, 2019 | by Dan Nicholls


At Eternity’s Gate – DVD Release

Dan looks at the home video release of the film, At Eternity’s gate, starring Willem Dafoe as Vincent van Gogh. Great movie, lackluster dvd release.


One of 2018’s finest overlooked gems, At Eternity’s Gate is an artistic masterstroke about the final years in the life of Vincent van Gogh. The film has made its way home via DVD and digital release; it’s your chance to catch what you may have sorely missed out on seeing on the big screen – the film’s gorgeous visual style is something you could soak in. You’re transported to a hypothetical roaming tableau imagining what it would have felt like to be alongside one of the undeniable master artistic talents of all time while he interpreted nature into a timeless fashion that will live forever. The film’s beauty is readily apparent in every frame but it is one aspect of the home viewing presentation that unintentionally leads to a bigger conversation.

Independent movies – even the best of them – can sometimes take a long time to develop an audience when their initial runs fail to increase distributor profit margins. If money’s being lost and the shores of evening out financially are ways off perhaps it sometimes isn’t worth the investment to put the resources into home media production. It isn’t the most lucrative racket to be in, releasing movies on physical discs in an age of iPhones and streaming.

All can be understood from a business perspective and it’s better to keep the champions of great filmmaking in business than to see them go under. But the movie lover in me is disheartened that a picture as fine as At Eternity’s Gate isn’t receiving a proper Blu-ray release (at least not in Canada). DVDs are cheaper to mass produce and will represent a smaller loss but the medium is simply too inferior of a format in today’s day and age to fully respect what the images contain. Quality of picture and sound are sadly sacrificed when they’re both so integral to the overall impressionistic experience of watching At Eternity’s Gate at home. Thankfully the iTunes download code included with purchase is in HD.

The fact that At Eternity’s Gate is, to me, such an amazing film made it an automatic contender for my collection in any format. The special features included on the release are minimal but enticing. Three featurettes give us quick insights into the creation of the film from the standpoint of the lead actor, director, and cinematographer (Made by a Painter, Channeling Van Gogh, and Vision of Van Gogh respectively). These brief glimpses behind the scenes with B-roll and interviews with the primary players are fascinating and tantalize a bigger, more in-depth look at the film that hopefully exists somewhere in a more fully fleshed-out fashion.

Willem Dafoe’s devastatingly painful and heartfelt portrayal of Vincent van Gogh garnered the veteran actor a Best Actor Academy Award nomination – and rightfully so. He brings real sadness and tenderness to the indescribable acts of creating art and living with mental illness. Using personal letters and general historic records as a guide, director Julian Schnabel brings his own visual palette to explore the mind of Van Gogh and his relationship with nature, other people, and his own sanity.

The film’s cinematography is exquisite and supporting performances from Oscar Isaac, Mads Mikkelsen, and Rupert Friend all shine. The score by Tatiana Lisovskaya is of particular note as well. Anyone who’s ever tried to create something – anything – will find the formally realized examination of the process of creation to be illuminating and delicately accurate. It’s a shame the film didn’t gain more of an appreciation upon release but perhaps like its subject himself At Eternity’s Gate will become more properly embraced in the years to come.

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is a Vancouver-based, lifelong movie geek who's been a projectionist, critic, director, (accidental) actor, and writer in the industry since E.T. phoned home. @dannicholls

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