EXCLUSIVE: The film At Eternity’s Gate isn’t a cradle-to-grave biopic, nor is it a forensic biographer of legendary artist Vincent van Gogh. Instead it’s a collection of scenes based on van Gogh’s letters, common agreement about events in his life that present as facts, hearsay, and moments that are just plain invented. In a new featurette, director/co-writer Julian Schnabel shares how this movie “was a form of painting” for him.

“I love making this movie…it’s my topic,” he said. “I get to say a lot of things about painting through Vincent that I’d like to hear Vincent say.”

The film goes on a journey inside the world and mind of a person who, despite skepticism, ridicule and illness, created some of the world’s most beloved and stunning works of art. Willem Dafoe plays the titular van Gogh and stars alongside Oscar Isaac, Rupert Friend. Jean-Claude Carrière and Louise Kugelberg co-wrote the script with Schnabel.

“Julian’s vision of the movie — it was made while we were doing it,” said Dafoe.

Watch the featurette above.