Film: Loving Vincent – The passion project made of 65 000 paintings

Loving Vincent, as the title suggests, is made with lots of love and admiration for Vincent Van Gogh.

Directors, Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, have devoted themselves to this project, however, the story falls short of the hype they created back in 2011 when the film was first announced.

After seven years in production, the film will finally be released this October. The sixty-five thousand frames used in the final cut were painted by more than one hundred professional artists. It was a laborious feat that demands respect. However, this is a case where ambition overshadows the story. 

Van Gogh’s suicide was re-imagined into a murder scene based on conspiracy theories, including strange gunshot angles and suspicious alibis of the wealthy, immature teenager who bullied him, Rene. However, there is never any convincing rationalisation behind the clues, only hearsay. It makes the story feel like the writer was grasping for straws in connecting an already farfetched notion.

Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth), whom Vincent once painted, travels to Auvers-sur-Oise, Van Gogh’s place of death. He is tasked by his father, the local postmaster (Chris O’Dowd), to deliver a letter to Vincent’s brother Theo. Roulin awaits to talk to Van Gogh’s physiatrist who seems to be the only one who knows of the brother’s whereabouts.

As he waits, Roulin converses with the townspeople, whom Vincent (Robert Gulaczyk) had also painted. The dialogue between them is the only way the film shows Van Gogh’s complex character. However, most characters seem to convey only shallow aspects of Vincent’s personality, overlooking Van Gogh’s mental illness that his physiatrist alludes to.

Dialogue sometimes transitions into black and white flashbacks that shows Van Gogh interacting with the last people he saw alive and the emotional scars he left behind. These few scenes of Van Gogh on screen could not properly show the disturbed individual that he truely was.

In the opening animation, the painting ‘The Starry Night’ smashes the audience into the dreamlike landscape of Van Gogh. The paintings almost add some three dimensionalities to the film, and are never far off from what Van Gogh could have created himself. It shows off the fruit of so much labouring.

The vibrantly coloured characters and settings that inhabit his paintings could not be more immersive. Modern art fanatics will finally get to witness their fantasies come true, as the portraits that have entranced them for years come to life.

Oscar nominated cinematographer for ‘Ida’, Lukasz Zal, and veteran animator, Tristan Oliver, use rotoscoping animation to weave every painting together, which can initially be irritating to the eye. However, it does not take long to adjust, and once you do, the style never ceases to be inspiring.

Loving Vincent is a touching tribute to a person that has inspired so many. Despite the loose plot lines, it is a film that deserves to be watched, if not for the hours of labour put into making it, then for ‘Vincent’.


Appearing in cinemas from November 2.  

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