Australian Council on Children and the Media

At Eternity's Gate

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Not recommended under 13 and parental guidance to 15 (Disturbing themes and images, lacks interest for younger viewers).

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for At Eternity's Gate
  • a review of At Eternity's Gate completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 19 February 2019.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not Recommended due to mature themes and lack of interest.
Children aged 13 -15 Parental guidance recommended due to mature themes.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: At Eternity's Gate
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes and coarse language.
Length 111 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

At Eternity’s Gate is a biographical drama about the life of Vincent van Gogh. Vincent (Willem Dafoe) has moved to Paris (1886) to continue his love of painting. There he meets Paul Guaguin (Oscar Isaac) and the two become close friends who share their disdain of the current impressionist art forms. Two years later, Vincent moves to Arles where he paints some of his most famous work such as the Sunflowers and the Wheatfields. All of his life, Vincent suffers from mental illness, psychosis, and depression and is often delusional. He is disliked by the people of Arles and frequently attacked by the local villagers, including children. When Guaguin returns to Paris, Vincent suffers a breakdown and cuts off part of his ear to give to Guaguin.

Vincent spends a lot of his life in and out of mental asylums and he dies by a gunshot to the stomach. The film depicts this as him being shot by young boys, but there is speculation that it was suicide. Vincent was never successful during his lifetime and he lived a life of poverty, supported financially by his younger brother Theo (Rupert Friend) who traded in art.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Mental Illness; suicide.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • A group of school children approach Vincent while he is painting. One of the boys goes to touch the painting and Vincent reacts badly, grabbing the boy and pulling him away. The children all scream and run away.
  • Several children throw rocks at Vincent. Vincent grabs one of the boys and is then attacked himself by a group of men.
  • Vincent meets a woman along the road that he wants to paint. She agrees but when she can’t get into the position Vincent wants, he gets annoyed and starts physically manipulating her body, at which she gets frightened and runs away.
  • Boys are playing with guns, which they shoot at Vincent. One of them then grabs his painting from the easel and throws it into the river.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Vincent is often seen in mental asylums with other patients who look quite mad. He looks gaunt and quite lost.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Vincent wanders through the mental asylum in a strait jacket. Several of the patients look quite mad.
  • Vincent is shown dead in a coffin.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • Vincent tells Theo that he thinks he’s losing his mind. Villagers say he screams in the street and puts black paint on his face to scare the children. He says he has visions and that he thinks maybe he could kill someone in that state or throw himself off a cliff. Vincent cries in Theo’s arms.
  • Vincent is seen with a bandage around his head talking to a doctor, Vincent tells him how upset he was when Guaguin left and that he cut off his ear (not shown). He says he wanted to give it to Paul to say sorry. He says there was blood everywhere. The doctor tells Vincent he drinks too much and is hysterical. He shows him the bloody piece of paper he wrapped his ear in with the words ‘remember me’ on the front.
  • Vincent is shown enclosed in a wooden bath with only his head showing. There are two other men in baths. One of them is heavily tattooed and talks about his time in the army and how he saw people being mutilated, tortured and raped. He talks about being suicidal. The third man keeps repeating the same word over and over. Eventually the other man tells him to shut up repeatedly.
  • When Vincent is shot, he stumbles along holding his stomach. Then, in the hospital, the doctor asks him if he shot himself to which Vincent replies ‘don’t blame anyone’.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Some children in this age group could be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes.

Product placement

  • None of concern.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Vincent asks a woman to stay with him for 50 francs.
  • A man in the bath talks about seeing women being raped.

Nudity and sexual activity

  • None of concern.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Vincent drinks a lot although he has little money.
  • Many of the characters smoke pipes.
  • Drinking at pubs, bars, etc.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • The occasional use of the word bastard.

In a nutshell

At Eternity’s Gate is a biopic of the life of Vincent van Gogh. Unfortunately it is shot entirely with a hand-held camera to give it a sense of ‘cinéma vérité’, which also promotes motion sickness. Some of the photography and scenery is quite beautiful, however, and most of the dark aspects of the movie are spoken rather than shown. Dafoe is brilliant as the tortured artist and the movie will appeal to older teens and adults, but due to its content and the themes explored is not recommended for children under 13.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Support and friendship.
  • Understanding of people who are different

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as.

  • Why were the villagers so mean to Vincent? Was it due to fearing what they didn’t understand?
  • Are there different attitudes towards mental illness in society today? Has anything changed? 

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