Willem Dafoe brings Vincent van Gogh's genius to life in his new film At Eternity's Gate


“What I see nobody else sees.”

Those are the words at the heart of Willem Dafoe’s upcoming film At Eternity’s Gate in which he plays Vincent van Gogh at the height of his artistic breakthrough.

Dafoe, 63, brings the legendary painter to life as he struggles through mental illness and self-doubt. The film also stars Mads Mikkelsen as a priest who questions why van Gogh sees himself as a painter.

“Because I love painting, I have to paint, I’ve always been a painter. That I know,” Dafoe’s van Gogh replies. “Because I can’t do anything else, and believe me, I’ve tried.”

The film follows van Gogh during his time at an asylum, as well as his meeting of another famous painter, Paul Gaugin (Oscar Isaac), who encourages van Gogh to pursue new forms of painting.

Willem Dafoe (left) as Vincent van Gogh
| Credit: CBS Films; Art Media/Print Collector/Getty

“We have to start a revolution, do you understand? We have to create a new vision, a new way of painting,” Gaugin says.

In response, van Gogh replies, “I’ve spent all my life alone in a room. I can’t wait to find a new light for paintings we haven’t yet seen.”

Also explored in the film is van Gogh’s infamous act in which he cut off his own ear and depicted himself with his bandaged ear in a self-portrait.

“So that’s why you cut off your ear. Your vision of the world is quite frightening,” someone tells him.

Demoralized, Van Gogh says, “Yes.”

At Eternity’s Gate is in theaters Nov. 16.