Film Review: Loving Vincent

Loving Vincent
Directors Hugh Welchman and Dorota Kobiela
Release date, February 8

Loving Vincent is an extraordinary film on many levels but mainly in its production. Directors Hugh Welchman and Dorota Kobiela have created live-action animated footage, with actors playing scripted roles.

The images of landscapes, interiors and individuals that make up the movie are all based on van Gogh’s own artworks. Each of the film's 65,000 frames is an oil painting on canvas, using van Gogh’s brush strokes and techniques created by a team of 125 painters with digital software being used to seamlessly link the images.

The film is set one year after  Vincent van Gogh's death and is a retelling of the final months of the artist’s life. The local postman, Roulin gets his son, Armand, to deliver Van Gogh's last letter to his brother Theo. 

He visits a number of people including Dr Gachet who housed Van Gogh after his release from an asylum; the proprietor of the local inn, Adeline Ravoux, who was fond of Van Gogh; and a local boatman who had befriended the artist. He also investigates Van Gogh's end and questions who was responsible for his death.

The film opens with the camera zooming into the landscape of Starry Night, which then becomes the location of a café (Café Terrace at Night) whose interior becomes a bar (All Night Café).

Here we encounter several of the characters based on the artist's paintings, including postman Roulin, his son Armand, as well as a drunken soldier (The Zouave).

As we follow Armand's journey we enter other van Gogh landscapes including the area around Arles (Cornfields), Paris (Moulin de la Galette) and Saint Remy (Yellow Wheat).

The artists who have created the thousands of images have used van Gogh’s later impressionist style as well as some of his Japanese-influenced works such as The Sower and Japonaiserie; The Tree while some of the invented views of the artist life have been rendered in a black and white/sepia style, a cross between his drawings and the monochrome paintings such as The Potato Eaters.

The storyline of the film is rather simple and the animation in many respects is primitive but the landscapes and the figures pulsate with colour and energy. We are both drawn into the throbbing swirls of colour and at the same time fascinated with the technical brilliance of the production.

The film may be exploring the life of van Gogh but it also gives a sense of the vision of the world that the artist must have had, seeing the world through a kaleidoscope of forms, colours and light.