‘We cannot speak other than by our paintings’ wrote Vincent van Gogh in the last letter before his death. Directors of Loving Vincent (Dorota Kobiela and Hush Welchman), the first fully painted oil feature film, knew that a thorough understanding of the artist can only be understood through his work. Through-out this 94 minute long picture they have brought Van Gogh back to life. After 6 years, using 65,000 frames at 12 per second, 125 painters who put their hearts into the project and 4 weeks of actors work on the set we have got the chance to re-discover Vincent in his very own world through this Polish-British innovative art piece.
The journey begins with the artist’s end and the guidance in the surrealistic world which is taken over by the son of Vincent’s friend, Mr. Roulin (Douglas Booth). Given a mission to deliver Van Gogh’s (Robert Gulaczyk) letter, he ended up in the village where painter had spent his final days. Overwhelmed by contradictory statements of residents (Helen McCrory, Jerome Flynn, Aidan Turner), he starts the investigation on his own. While looking for the reasons of Vincent’s sudden change in character and mental state in a short period of just 6 weeks, Roulin reconstructs van Gogh’s steps. Entering inns, neighbourhoods and people houses he gets closer to discovering Vincent’s mysterious reason of death and even more odd way of living.
Fortunately, neither the words nor linear plot with retrospect seem to have the greatest importance here. Mostly obviously, simple dialogue with a pinch of flatness or on the contrary – pathos, is only the canvas for the picture and sound. Seeing paintings being animated mesmerizes and makes it possible to perceive surroundings through Vincent’s soul captured in brush strokes imitating his unique style. Moreover, every character which appeared on the screen was taken from Van Gogh’s artwork. As a background to paintings we have music composed by Clint Mansell that perfectly complements the visual side and deepens melancholy or tension during especially emotional scenes. Fluidity and harmony of the picture and sound create the whole film as a pleasure for the senses producing a flickering and surrealistic experience.
Yet, the visuals are not the most important part of the film, but the message beyond the shots. It’s the truthful depiction of humanity. Not the master of modern art, not the genius who’s Starry Night can be found on the walls of student’s messy rooms. Beyond the art we get to know the sensitive, incredibly lonely and sad person who does not value himself enough and suffers from bipolar disease. Through the misunderstanding by people who are seeing just the surface of the complex man, he never stops being true to himself and enjoying little things.
Loving Vincent is a one of its kind and in itself a work of art. Technique combined with a gripping criminal plot magnetises and successfully persuades observers to stay. In spite of Vincent’s rather rare presence, he is there. In his paintings, parts of letters and statements of the people he knew. Creators of the film made sure that after the screening we’ll be able to see Vincent van Gogh in more depth than the world-famous painter or the man with only one ear. We’ll see a tortured romantic, ordinary human being and the lost melancholic who just wanted to be loved and remembered. As he once said:
“…I should one day like to show by my work what such an eccentric, such a nobody, has in his heart.”. That film makes it happen.