Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Lust for Life (1956)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Lust for Life (1956)

In director Vincente Minnelli's CinemaScopic biopic of the famous nineteenth-century Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh:

  • the scene in which impulsive and obsessive artist Vincent Van Gogh (Oscar-nominated Kirk Douglas) agonized over unrequited love and forced himself upon widowed cousin Kay (Jeanette Sterke) - as a result, she was never to talk to him again - and later Van Gogh's persistence to see her (at her parents' home) caused him even more pain and "disappointment in love"
  • the various scenes of his life translated to his painted canvas (such as Vincent's Bedroom at Arles)
  • the vicious argument scenes and stormy relationship between the tortured painter and his brawling fellow housemate/painter-mentor Paul Gauguin (Oscar-winning Anthony Quinn) in Arles (Southern France) about their different art styles: (Gauguin: " paint too fast" -- Van Gogh: "You look too fast"); also Gauguin made a spiteful criticism of Van Gogh for his easy life: "I didn't have a brother to support me"
  • the dramatic scene of Van Gogh's discussion with his loyal and financially-supportive Dutch art dealer/brother Theo (James Donald) about his failed life: ("We've grown apart, Theo. Look, you found what you wanted in Paris and I'm glad for you. I've found nothing - anywhere. I've made one bad start after another. One mess after another. I thought I was on my way here by doing God's work. That was the worst failure of all. But no matter how often I fail, there is something in me. That I am good for something")
  • when Theo accused him of wasting his time and becoming an idler, Van Gogh replied that there were two kinds of idlers: ("An idler? Yes. But there are two kinds of idlers. There's the man who's idle because he wants to be, out of laziness. How easy that is. I envy him. There's the other kind, the man who's idle in spite of himself. I want nothing but to work. Only, I can't. I'm in a cage, a cage of shame and self-doubt and failure. Somebody believe me. I'm caged. I'm caged. I'm alone. I'm frightened")
  • the resultant shocking self-mutilation scene of the suffering artist battling his own mirror reflection and his pained head, and then cutting off part of his own left ear (off-screen) with a straight-edged razor, out of extreme loneliness and despair
  • the sequence of Van Gogh's increasing madness when painting in a rural area and black crows attacked (and he added them to his painting), and then shortly later, he steadied a piece of paper in the fork of a tree and wrote himself a note about his severe depression: "I am desperate. I can foresee absolutely nothing. I see no way out" - then, he attempted suicide by shooting himself with a gun he had removed from his pocket (off-screen)
Attacked by Crows
"I am Desperate"
  • the final scene of Van Gogh's death with his brother Theo at his bedside, when he asked: ("Theo? I'd like to go home") - and then slumped over dead, with his pipe falling from his hand; Theo cried out: ("My own brother. My poor, poor brother")

Vincent Van Gogh Forcing Himself on Cousin Kay

Life Translated to the Canvas

Paul Gauguin (Anthony Quinn): "You paint too fast" - Van Gogh: "You look too fast"

Gauguin: "I didn't have a brother to support me"

Theo (James Donald)

Discussion About Two Kinds of Idleness With Brother Theo

Self-Mutilation Scene

Van Gogh's Death


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