Loving Vincent purports to be the world’s first fully-painted feature film. The meaning of this becomes clear almost as the title’s role. Telling of the last mystery-filled days in the life of painter Vincent van Gogh, filmmakers Hugh Welchman and Dorota Kobiela and their team of over 100 dedicated artists have taken 130 paintings by Van Gogh and literally brought them to life. Each frame (65,000 in total) has been animated, not by computer but by hand-painted oils. It’s a staggering achievement, as Van Gogh’s canvasses vividly come alive in front of your eyes.
Taking the famous and not-so-famous works, Welchman and Kobiela have sewn together a moving tapestry, using the people featured in many of his paintings in this unique story that pieces together what happened in his final days. Did he commit suicide? Or was he accidentally shot in the stomach? It’s a riddle that has intrigued scholars and the filmmakers tease us with suggestions, ideas and notions about a man who only ever sold one painting in his life and suffered for his sanity,
Set a year after Vincent’s death, the artist is seen through other’s eyes, as anecdotes and recollections pour forth. Encouraged by his postman father (Chris O’Dowd), a former friend and drinking companion of Van Gogh, Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth) plays amateur sleuth. A regular sitter for the artist, Roulin travels to Auvers–sur–Oise in France, talking to various characters famed from his paintings – including Doctor Gachet (Jerome Flynn) and his daughter (Saoirse Ronan). Despite some flashbacks, Van Gogh (Robert Gulaczyk) largely stays in the shadows.
The film isn’t entirely successful – contemporary snatches of dialogue and incongruous accents are jarring. But to look at, Loving Vincent is an astounding work that shimmers with beauty. Transporting the viewer inside such famous paintings as Starry Night and The Night Café, along with many others, it’s a transformative way to enter into Van Gogh’s life. With a score by Clint Mansell, including a wonderfully tranquil version of the Don McLean standard Vincent recorded by Lianne La Havas, this deserves to be seen on the biggest canvas possible.
Loving Vincent opens in cinemas on 12 October. For more information, visit: www.altitudefilment.com
1. Trailer for Loving Vincent. Courtesy of Vimeo.