Savannah Film Fest: 'At Eternity's Gate' Helmer Julian Schnabel on Art, Film and Art on Film

Julian Schnabel, the celebrated artist and Oscar-nominated filmmaker (he received a best director nomination for 2007's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), visited the campus of the Savannah College of Art and Design earlier this month to attend a Lucas Theatre screening of his new film At Eternity's Gate, which looks at the final years in the troubled life of the 19th century artist Vincent van Gogh.

Afterwards, Schnabel joined me for a conversation — which you can watch in its entirety at the top of this post — about At Eternity's Gate. The 67-year-old explains why the film — which he and the legendary Jean-Claude Carriere wrote, with Schnabel's girlfriend Louise Kugelberg, after a visit to a recent van Gogh exhibition — is absolutely not a biopic, but rather a study of creativity and what it means to be an artist. Schnabel talks about juggling the limited public record of van Gogh's life with things he imagines might have been true. He explains why he cast Willem Dafoe as van Gogh, even though the actor is decades older than van Gogh was when he died, and how Dafoe learned to become a more-than-competent painter during the making of the film. And he explains tthe rationale of intermingling scenes of color and beauty, as captured by cinematographer Benoît Delhomme, with shots of a black screen throughout the film. Plus much more.