Their fears are shown to be entirely justified during the first scenes in Tahiti, showing Gauguin trying to paint in a shanty offering little shelter from torrential rain. He has little money and his health deteriorates, culminating in a heart attack, following which his doctor recommends that he should return to France. But he is obsessed with his art, and after recovering sufficiently treks off on horseback. On the point of exhaustion he comes across a native village, collapsing and later regaining consciousness in the care of these people. In the village is Tehura, a young native girl whose parents are pleased to offer to him as a bride, an offer he willingly accepts, taking her as both a bride and a muse. Thus begins a period of stability, and relative happiness, but his obsession with his painting gradually starts to sour the relationship, and there is a young native suitor with his eyes on Tehura.
The point is reached where his obsession with painting Tehura extends to effectively depriving her of the opportunity to eat, while his financial situation remains continually perilous, denying Tehura a white dress in which she can attend the church. He ultimately resorts to working at the docks to earn money, which for a person in his state of health is extremely unwise. In the end he has no choice but to return to France, leaving Tehura whom he will never see again, despite subsequent visits to the island. The paintings of her, however, along with his wider Polynesian collection, still grace the walls of prestigious art galleries around the world. He was a controversial artist and to a degree remains so, his fame being entirely posthumous, but he is credited with inspiring a generation of artists.
This is a slow-moving film that doesn't completely take advantage of the wonderful Tahitian setting, preferring to concentrate on the characterisations. It also skips over the fact that Tehura was only 13 when she married Gauguin, another deeply controversial aspect of his life. The film's dialogue is a combination of French and Polynesian, so sub-titles are essential.