The Eyes of Van Gogh
 
 
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Film Poster The Eyes of Van Gogh Alexander Barnett films 
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REVIEWS

r-masloski from United States 30 June 2013   Who is Alexander Barnett?

He is the man who wrote, directed and stars in what is arguably the most poignant and profound portrayal of Vincent van Gogh ever put on film. There have been many movie Van Goghs: Kirk Douglas' rendition in LUST FOR LIFE is magisterial. But despite the intense veracity of Vincente Minnelli's 1956 film, there were warts beneath the warts in the actual history that just didn't make it to the screen in that lavish and rich outing. Robert Altman offered a grimmer and grimier version of things in VINCENT AND THEO and Tim Roth gave us a more insular artist - whereby from all historic accounts the destined Dutchman was extremely demonstrative and vocal and all over the place. Jacques Dutronc's turn with the paint brush in VAN GOGH was likewise introspect in a biopic that flung facts around as wildly as Van Gogh flung paint anywhere and everywhere in his frenzied attack of the nihilistic blankness of the ever-goading canvas.

In Alexander Barnett - through his raw,ragged and really realistic THE EYES OF VAN GOGH - we have an actor who seems to be channeling the actual spirit of the artist. For starters, he looks probably the closest to what Van Gogh probably looked like - given that there are no photographs of him as an adult and all we have to go by are his many variegated self-portraits. There are many sequences in this film wherein I felt I was actually looking at the real man, as if caught on some time machine of a film camera. But beyond the outward, it is in the probing of the inward that Mr. Barnett excels. From start to finish, he never loses Van Gogh in himself. There is not a false note in the performance. His acting is a veritable acting class in and of itself. If he and this film had ever been eligible, his is a performance supremely worthy of an Oscar.

The script is sublime. In it, Mr. Barnett dares to bravely show us the darkest sides of Van Gogh. These scenes are painful to watch, if one is totally sold on the Van Gogh-as-Saint interpretation of history. Yet balanced with that blackness, shown are all of the reasons why - as Don McClean sings in STARRY NIGHT - "this world was never meant for one as beautiful" as Vincent. If Mr. Barnett's script were only available in printed form, it would still be (in addition to being historically accurate and revealing)intense and exciting to read but - in the finished film - these scenes are enacted with such passion and pathos that they seem less acted than lived. As directed by Mr. Barnett, there is a John Cassavettes-like sense of improvisation and therefore total reality that packs one tremendous emotional wallop after another. And like Cassavettes and even Welles in certain instances, Mr. Barnett holds many scenes for incredible amounts of time that lesser directors would be too timid to even attempt. These long, unedited sequences carefully build the utter sense of reality that Mr. Barnett was evidently after and has so eminently achieved. We, as viewers, become part of what we are watching - in ways that are quite rare to most movies.

Also in this immense film there are many set-pieces and images that will stay with one for a long, long time. Haunting sequences and riveting images that are imaginatively conceived and expertly, flawlessly delivered. One example is when Vincent imagines/dreams/fantasizes/hallucinates the death of his beloved brother. After the "imaginary" sequence there is a sharp cut to Vincent sitting up in his asylum bed in the middle of the night, crying and cradling what is apparent emptiness - but is, instead, the impossible thought of a lost Theo. Brilliantly, in this one sequence alone, this one image of Vincent cradling "emptiness", volumes are spoken - for in the event of losing Theo, Vincent would indeed be cradling emptiness. But in the larger context, this one image of Vincent cradling "emptiness" in the middle-of-the-night speaks largely and painfully for most of the whole of his life. It is in such brilliant, often wordless scenes and sequences that Mr. Barnett's vision explodes from the film frame as passionately and as profoundly as Vincent van Gogh's vision exploded from his canvas frames and bathed the world in color and gave us a new way of seeing. As Van Gogh's work transcended the bounds of its frames, so also does Mr. Barnett's film transcend the boundaries of the movie or television screen. In both instances, with both artists, Art does what it so rarely does. Art... becomes Life.

 

startling, unflinching, and profound -- Author: graywing4 from United States 30 October 2007

Mr. Barnett's ability to move us directly into the anguished reality of the genius who was Vincent Van Gogh is startling, unflinching, and profound.  He reflects to us the inexorable tragedy brought on by the deeply flawed relationship between the Van Gogh brothers, compounded by the confusion and bitter poverty of being unseen by his peers, misconstrued by the world at large. Yet no one was more in touch with the blazing pulse of creation than this tormented man, whose transcendent work has touched us all.  To be confronted with such a life, and such a film, is not for the faint of heart; like Van Gogh's restless and fiery art, Barnett's script is uncompromising -- and his acting powerful.

 

An intense and haunting portrayal of Vincent Van Gogh as only Barnett can deliver. -- Author: p_pellecchia from United States 11 May 2007

This movie will stir your soul. Barnett draws us in, leaving us emotionally drained, as he brings to life Vincent's struggles and what must have been his tortured state of mind during those dark years. We are immersed into Vincent's mind. Also noteworthy, Roy Thinnes'performance as Dr. Peyron. I thought the sets and costuming were too drab but that did not deter from the, at times, riveting performances on screen. All in all, this is a noteworthy work. Hope to see more of Barnett on film. He comes across as well on film as he does on stage. Would love to see some of his earlier work come alive on the screen.

 

A biographical film that works -- Author: bethyellowitz from United States 27 June 2013

Biographical films are problematic - especially the ones about artists. Not just painters. Any artist. Generally, I find them simplistic, sentimental or sleazy - on occasion all three at the same time. Often, the casting is silly. That is not the case here. What's most important to me in a film is the acting and the writing. I agree with the other reviewers for the most part. Both are excellent in The Eyes of Van Gogh - most especially that of Mr. Barnett as Vincent, who is riveting and amazingly well cast. He also wrote the film script. I was disappointed by the actor who played Theo - not that I've liked others who have played van Gogh's brother. But here - in the writing - he had an opportunity to show the torment Theo also must have experienced and could not manage it. I believe he died of brain fever shortly after Vincent died. Even though that is not part of this portion of van Gogh's life in the film, we should have sensed that coming. The actors playing the other roles were just fine - including many of the small ensemble. This was obviously a labor of love for Alexander Barnett and I salute him.

 

An intimate, but explosive film. -- Author: salliejames from France 17 November 2007

I was truly astonished to see what can be accomplished with a low budget combined with obvious passion and commitment. I have always been a great fan of Roy Thinnes and was delighted to be able to see him again. There have been a couple of films about van Gogh. This one, I believe, captures him more truly and believably than any other I have seen. His torment is palpable and fully understandable. This film is about what happens when extraordinary people are for whatever reason unable to fully realize all of their potential. And yet, despite all, they must persevere. An outstanding performance by Alexander Barnett, who also wrote the screenplay.

 

Wonderful portrait of Van Gogh -- Author: jenniferrowland737 from United States 13 July 2013

I have been obsessed with Van Gogh, since I first laid eyes on his originals in L.A.. Prints of his work just don't show the awe inspiring life force that emanates from his paintings. " Through the Eyes of Van Gogh" is a sensitive and intense work of art in itself. It achieves an externalization of Van Gogh's internal struggles of trying to make a living, trying to relate to others, trying to hold on to his unique vision of art and his brave battle with mental illness, all of which he felt he failed at, at the time of his suicide. I feel this film brilliantly achieves looking through the eyes of Van Gogh, by focusing on his time in the mental hospital with the addition of flashbacks to pivotal points in his life. The writer, who is also the actor who portrays Vincent, has created a portrait of Van Gogh that is as palpable as his paintings.


An engaging portrayal of Van Gogh from his own perspective -- Author: sayitwithmusic from United States 6 March 2007

History tells us that Van Gogh, like many artists, was a very intense and troubled personality. Barnett takes us into the heart and mind of the man in a way that causes us to empathize afresh with his feelings and struggles. Barnett the film-maker deliberately refrains from any cutting from one camera to another, enhancing the viewer's being drawn into the world as viewed from Van Gogh's perspective. The score is also effective in painting an aural picture of what is going on inside the artist's mind. In this film we see Van Gogh, not just as a troubled soul, but as a sensitive and caring person who never quite found the way to break free of the demons from his past that haunted him up to the end of his life. Barnett's portrayal of Van Gogh is both believable and engaging. Despite the film's length of almost two hours, it holds the viewer's attention and moves the heart.

 

The essence of van Gogh -- Author: paulhodgson-1 from United States 27 February 2007

The viewer who has not encountered Mr. Barnett's work before may at first feel some disorientation, even shock, at the style and emotional intensity of this award-winning movie. The realization may grow, moving into it minute by minute, that what Barnett has done in his own artistic venue is in many ways comparable to what Vincent did in his -- transforming the artist's own clear perception of reality and life (in this case, Vincent's) into forms strikingly different from any seen in that venue before. This is not the kind of commercialized, mundanely Hollywood-slick film making that we are used to, which I find so often boring, in the end. I'd say to those who would be disappointed by that: look elsewhere. Having had the pleasure of seeing some of Barnett's early work in NY on stage -- Miller and Shakespeare at their best, in my book -- I did not require a period of readjustment of expectation and perception. (At age 33, he did the best King Lear I have ever seen.) What challenged me, in a very positive way, was the complexity and nuance of compressing Vincent's life story, spirit, and values into the remarkably short format of a 111-minute run time. Having known Vincent's story as of decades ago, but not having read the letters of Vincent and Theo, I found it difficult to approach this work with a pristine eye or ear. Would the naive viewer quite understand the context of this or that event (say, the Borinage time), etc? And would the unavoidable constraints of a low budget production detract from the essential experience and value of the work? Impossible for me to know, and anyway, I'm no film critic. I can say that I have it on good authority that the script remains true to the van Gogh letters, and the portrayal certainly remains uniquely true to Vincent's spirit and work. As film making (his first feature work), it uses the full palette, visually and emotionally. My advice: do not view it casually. That would be a waste. Nota Bene: Roy Thinnes is so very Peyron. (I really enjoyed his role in X Files, too.) All said and done -- 9 stars. It will sadden me if we don't see more of Barnett on film, as it does that we don't have some earlier work on film.

 

Intense and enlightening  Author: jlasko from United States 14 June 2007

Some movies are entertaining. Others are an experience. Alexander Barnett's Van Gogh biopic definitely falls into the latter category. Far from "guilty pleasure" fare, "The Eyes of Van Gogh" is a skillful and passionate portrayal of a talented yet tortured artist. This movie will educate you about the world of this struggling genius, even as it compels you to feel compassion for Van Gogh in his sad state. Competition, debt, insanity, rejection--all of these themes swirl Vincent's reality much like the colors in his paintings...you'll be relieved to view reality for yourself again at the end. But if you let it, the movie may remind you of all you have to be grateful for, and even challenge you to look at your own life through slightly different eyes.

 

An Extensive Tour of Van Gogh's Disturbed Mind -- Author: jfischet from United States 4 December 2009

The "Eyes of Van Gogh" was a captivating and depressing portrayal of Van Gogh's final days. I always viewed Van Gogh as an excellent artist with a slightly disturbing life. I clearly did not understood neither the full extent of his despair. From the beginning, it's very clear that Van Gogh is captive to his dark, depressing hallucinations caused by a difficult and lonely life. In fact, it seems as if Van Gogh's life was just one disappointment after another. Friendless, loveless, and entirely dependent upon his brother for living, Van Gogh was not the successful artist that I always imagined him to be. One cannot help but feel sorry for a man whose parents blamed him for the death of his brother, whose true love cruelly rejected him, and whose beautiful paintings were ridiculed by the artistic elite. Such rejection and cruelty would drive anyone crazy. The drab scenery and music were key to setting the overall tragic setting of this movie. Also, the confusion experienced deciphering actual events from make-believe ones helps one to understand Van Gogh's delirium during his days in the Insane Asylum. It is very fitting that Van Gogh dies soon after he is forbidden from the one activity that brings him joy, painting. The viewer is left with the impression that without art, Van Gogh really had nothing left to live for.

 

A superb character study -- Author: klear-1 from United States 29 October 2007

Before I saw this film, I read about the making of the film and what the director was trying to accomplish. I cannot recall another film about a real person that captured so totally what it might have felt like to be that person and to understand what drove him. I recommend this film to anyone interested in film as an incredible medium for character study. Perhaps this can best, if not only, be accomplished by writer/directors like Ingmar Bergman. In this instance, Alexander Barnett as writer/director/actor has also succeeded beautifully in reincarnating Vincent van Gogh as a being compelled to work, to express himself and his thoughts, to live fully - not as a victim, but heroic in his battle to survive.

 

A haunting and emotionally draining experience, but a must see -- Author: jstachelek from United States 6 March 2007

Having seen some of Barnett's earlier work on stage in N.Y., I was more than familiar with the depth and breadth of his ability as an actor and director; how seemingly effortlessly he brings each of his characters to life. I was fully prepared to be equally moved by his interpretation and portrayal of Vincent van Gogh. I knew that Barnett could be electrifying on stage and I was curious to see how his energy would translate on film. Nothing, however, prepared me for the emotional shock I experienced by his haunting rendering of the most tortured months in the life of van Gogh. The intensity that Barnett brought to this role can only be described as "insane." One can but imagine the years of research and total immersion into the life of van Gogh it must have required to be able to portray with such shocking clarity what was in van Gogh's heart and mind during this brief period of time. Another commenter describes Barnett's performance as, "as close to insanity as you will ever get." I agree. The film is not highly polished in the typical sense. The lighting is poor at times, the sets and scenery drab, and while I know nothing about film editing, I found some of the flashbacks unnecessarily confusing. These perceived flaws could be due to budget constraints, but knowing something of Barnett's work, I tend to think there is some intention on his part. The overall effect is that the viewer experiences the bleakness that is Vincent's life at the time. At times in the film, what is reality and what is only in van Gogh's tortured and clouded mind is as indistinguishable to the viewer as it is to Vincent, making the viewing experience all the more haunting and disquieting. An amazing feat, whether intentional or not.

 

-- Author: >AlwaysRomantic from United States 24 February 2007

The legend of Van Gogh haunts the ages. What, we wonder, was behind those images. What did Vincent SEE??? The Eyes of Van Gogh will take you there - if you can learn to "paint the air".
Van Gogh wanted to push art beyond visual reality. He wanted to paint the air that we could sense but not see. He wanted to paint emotion. But his insanity stole reality from him. He couldn't tell what was real and what was a distortion of real. He fought the distortion with all his strength. He tried to capture reality by surrounding it with color. The distortions fought back, stealing his art equipment, surrounding him with darkness. Alexander Barnett will take you into this fight - I said, take YOU INTO this fight. It's as close to insanity as you'll ever want to get.

 

Great performance! -- Author: rivera_1961 from Springfield, VA 4 June 2015

An extraordinary performance by Alexander Barnett on a very tough character to portray. A remarkable and convincing depiction of Van Gogh's most difficult days. Alexander Barnett delivers a chilling enactment of Van Gogh's time at the Saint-Paul Asylum where he admitted himself for treatment due to hallucinations. As I watched the film I found myself connecting with the emotions, frustrations, and challenges Van Gogh endured during these times. The eyes of Alexander Barnett brought to life a character representation that was stunningly convincing. It takes a significant amount of dedication to bring out these emotional tones to the point of belief by the audience. The attention to detail in the overall production shows the standard Alexander Barnett demands in film making and was recognized by receiving an award as Best Period Film, at the WorldFest Houston in 2005. I can't wait to see more of his work!


 

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