New Van Gogh film starring Willem Dafoe hits theaters Jan. 3

Julian Schnabel's film about Van Gogh, starring Willem Dafoe as the great artist, hits theaters Jan. 3.

The film Van Gogh - On the Threshold of Eternity, directed by Julian Schnabel and starring Willem Dafoe as Vincent van Gogh (Zundert, 1853 - Auvers-sur-Oise, 1890), will be released in Italian cinemas on January 3, 2019: a performance that earned the American actor a Coppa Volpi at the 75th Venice Film Festival and a nomination for Best Actor in a Drama Film at the 2018 Golden Globes. After the premiere held in Milan on December 2 as part of the Immaginarte festival, the film will therefore arrive in all theaters, distributed by Lucky Red.

“This is a film about painting and a painter and their relationship with respect to infinity,” Schnabel said in Venice. “It contains what I consider to be the essential moments in his life; it is not a biography, but my version of the story. A version that I hope will bring you closer to the artist.” It is a film about the creativity and sacrifices of the Dutch genius, the feverish intensity of his art, and his vision of the world and reality. Among the performers, Rupert Friend plays the role of Theo van Gogh, Oscar Isaac is Paul Gauguin, and Mathieu Amalric is Dr. Paul Gachet.

“It is a film about a painter, Van Gogh, in which we have tried to avoid telling a biography,” says screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière (known for his collaborations with a great master such as Luís Buñuel), “and instead to imagine scenes that could plausibly have taken place, situations in which Van Gogh could have been and things he could have said, but that the story did not record. This is a completely new approach.” The film project originated inside the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, where Schnabel took Carrière himself to see an exhibition on van Gogh. And about that experience, Schnabel says, “when you are in front of individual works, each one tells you something different. But after seeing 30 paintings, the experience becomes something more. It becomes the sum of all those feelings put together,” he describes. “That’s the effect I wanted to achieve with the film, to make the structure such that each event we see happening to Vincent could add up to the previous ones, as if the viewer could experience his whole life in a moment.”

Stresses Carrière, “We started by writing together and reading a lot, but the idea was never to work on a biography or to satisfy the usual curiosities. What we were interested in was that Van Gogh in the last years of his life was completely aware that he had acquired a new worldview, that he was no longer painting the way other painters did. He was offering people a new way of looking at things, and this way of looking at things is what we wanted to show in the film.”

“There’s a line in the film,” states producer Jon Kilik instead, “where Vincent says he doesn’t invent anything he paints. He says, ’It’s all already there in nature, I just have to release it.’ And that’s exactly what happens when Julian paints and when he makes his films. He does not try to tell the stories of painters, writers, poets and musicians as much as to let their stories flow through his original point of view. The film is a portrait of anyone who has ever sat down to create something, whether he is a painter or not.”

Instead, lead actor Willem Dafoe recalls, "I’ve known Julian for a long time. He is an old friend, and when I heard he was going to make a film about Van Gogh I immediately wanted to get the part. Once during a meeting, Julian told me to read Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith’s book, Van Gogh: The Life. I read it and jotted down all the things I thought were interesting, certain quotes, some small details. I sent my notes to Julian and that marked the beginning of my participation in the project. Everything started from there. I think many of us are convinced that we know a lot about Van Gogh. But we didn’t. The more I read, the more I felt him as a source of inspiration. I was particularly impressed by everything he wrote in his letters."

New Van Gogh film starring Willem Dafoe hits theaters Jan. 3
New Van Gogh film starring Willem Dafoe hits theaters Jan. 3

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