PUBLISHED 12 OCT 2017
LOVING VINCENT (Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman 2017) is an animated biopic that tells the story of the life of artist Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890). Far from animated in the usual manner, LOVING VINCENT is the first ever fully painted feature film. With 12 frames per second, 65,000 paintings were created over the course of seven years; every frame of the film is made up of an oil painting in Van Gogh’s textured, impasto style.
Van Gogh is well known not only for his tranquil and radiant paintings but for his eccentricities. Perhaps the most famous of which is the story of the removal, and subsequent gifting of, his own ear. Not so well known are the circumstances of his death. In the June of 1890, Van Gogh was seen as being calm and even happy. The depression that had tormented him for most of his life had significantly waned. He had just sold his first painting and had a recent painting praised by Monet himself. It is of great surprise, then, that by July 27th he was dead, killed by a gunshot to the stomach. There is much debate among historians about the circumstances regarding his death. While generally considered as suicide, there are conflicting accounts that suggest something else entirely.
The film is set a year after his death but it is this mystery that fuels family friend Armand Roulin (Douglis Booth) to venture to discover what really happened to the tortured artist in his last few days. This structure is then very reminiscent of CITIZEN KANE (Orson Welles 1941) in which the life and death of a larger-than-life character is pieced together. While it is clear the film is a huge technical feat and truly stunning to watch, it is the narrative that will draw you in.
With a smart-talking detective attempting to uncover a murder in a highly stylised story, the film is very evocative of film noir. This at first may seem like an unusual way to tell Van Gogh’s story but it plays out beautifully with flashbacks of encounters with the wide cast of characters found in his famous portraits. Through these encounters, watching characters posing as they do in their portraits, we really do get to witness art come to life.
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