By Tanner Bidish, Visual Media Director
Vincent Van Gogh has been memorialized a hundred times over; in celebratory galleries, in newspaper articles, – heck, even in a Doctor Who episode. His death and the circumstances surrounding it are tragic for sure, but the beauty of his work and the lack of appreciation that Van Gogh received in his life make his story dynamic. It’s as if, as a global community of empaths and art enthusiasts, we are trying to reach beyond the grave and tell Vincent that we love what he’s done – that his work has touched us, and we are perhaps better for it.
Loving Vincent sets out to say just that. The film follows the postmaster’s son as he aims to deliver the last letter from Van Gogh to the artist’s next of kin. Through his travels, he visits the old stomping grounds of the painter and becomes gradually more obsessed with his story. The whole affair plays out like a detective drama. Conversations with the people who knew Vincent in his last few months look and sound like interviews that are used to assemble pieces to a larger puzzle. However, it’s a puzzle that most people watching this movie have seen before.
The most interesting character in the script is dead the whole time, and the film suffers for it. Loving Vincent does do a beautiful job of remembering Vincent Van Gogh, but not in its words. What is truly remarkable about the animated feature is that the entire film is done by hand in oil paints.
There are 65,000 frames of oil paintings in the film. There are paintings done in full color and paintings, for flashbacks, done in black and white. The visual aesthetic is completely unique. Homages to famed Van Gogh pieces are laid throughout (notably in most of the characters, including the protagonist himself). The effect of seeing these paintings in motion through pans, tracking shots, tilts and zooms are jaw-dropping. The paints breathe and moved so fluidly. There are even moments where the texture of the oil paint can be visibly seen on screen and it only pulls attention further inward. Even with over a hundred artists working on this project, there is indistinguishable continuity throughout.
Don’t come to Loving Vincent if you’re looking for new imaging of his tragic tale; the story of a beautiful artist isn’t quite there. Do come to Loving Vincent if you want a visual feast. Come if you want to see images that will make your eyes water, your heart flutter, your mind race. Come to see it if you want to see art actively love Vincent Van Gogh through the same medium that made all of us fall in love with him.
Watch the trailer here: