A new film about the artist Vincent Van Gogh claims that he was murdered rather than the accepted narrative that he shot himself.
“At Eternity’s Gate” starring Willem Dafoe as the tortured genius, was premiered Monday at the Venice film festival, and in it the revered painter is shot after a struggle with local youths near the village of Auvers-sur-Oise outside Paris, where the artist spent his final months in 1890. He died 36 hours later after staggering back to the local inn in the dark.
While most historians agree that Van Gogh killed himself, renowned painter and Oscar-nominated director Julian Schnabel fuels a theory that he was killed in the film.
Legendary French screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere – who co-wrote the script with Schnabel — said in a chat with AFP there “is absolutely no proof he killed himself. Do I believe that Van Gogh killed himself? Absolutely not!”
“He came back to the auberge with a bullet in his stomach and nobody ever found the gun or his painting materials,” Carriere added.
“What we have been fighting against is the dark romantic legend of Van Gogh. In the last period of his life Van Gogh was working constantly. Every day he made a new work,” he said.
His final weeks, when he painted the “Portrait of Dr Gachet” – which set a world record when it sold for $82.5 million in 1990 — were “not at all sad”, the writer argued.
Schnabel insisted that a man who had painted 75 canvasses in his 80 days at Auvers-sur-Oise was unlikely to be suicidal.
The theory that Van Gogh did not commit suicide was first raised in a 2011 biography of the painter by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith.
Schnabel said neither the gun nor “the painting material he had that day were ever found. It is strange to bury your shit if you are committing suicide.”
The director however added that the film was not meant to be a factual biopic, because “all history is a lie”.
“I don’t care if the notebook is real or not real if he killed himself or didn’t kill himself. It’s irrelevant. But in the film, it is nice to know there is another set of possibilities…”
The ebullient New Yorker also wanted to correct the “bad wrap” that Van Gogh’s friend Paul Gauguin gets from history.
Van Gogh may have cut off his ear when the painter announced he was leaving him to return to Paris, but “Gauguin really cared about him,” Schnabel said.
“He is portrayed usually as an arsehole. Anthony Quinn (in the 1957 film “Lust for Life”) played him like that, but he wasn’t.”