Directed By: Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman
Cast: Chris O’Dowd, Douglas Booth, Jerome Flynn, Robert Gulaczyk, Aidan Turner, Holly Earl
If you asked someone to name a famous painter off the top of their head, there’s very high probability the name they’ll say is that of Vincent van Gogh, the Dutch post-impressionist painter who is one of the most famous and influential artists. Sadly, Van Gogh took his own life at the age of 37 after years of suffering with mental illness, poverty, and being shunned by the people in his local community.
‘Loving Vincent’ takes place a year after Vincent’s death, and follows Armand (Douglas Booth), the son of one of Vincent’s friend, Roulin the Postman (Chris O’Dowd). Vincent’s landlord hands Roulin a letter Vincent had written before his death, which is addressed to his brother, Theo, and Roulin asks that his son delivers it for him. Armand hesitantly accepts and heads to Paris to find Theo van Gogh, but after discovering that he died shortly after his brother committed suicide, Armand travels to Auvers-sur-Oise to learn more about the days leading up to Vincent’s suicide and talk to people who knew and were around him at the time.
This film is nothing short of astonishing. Each and every single frame is an individual painting that was created using the same technique as Van Gogh himself, by a team of 115 artists. – in total there were around 65,000 paintings created for the film – and it’s the world’s first fully painted feature film. During ‘Loving Vincent’ I was in absolute awe watching each and every frame appear on screen. My eyes darted around the screen watching even the smallest little details change with every frame.
When Armand is in conversation with some of the many characters we meet, the film often goes into flashbacks and witness the events that are being discussed. These paintings are a lot different to the ones used during the modern day scenes, they’re also in black and white and they absolutely blew me away with the level of detail that each painting had. The transitions that take place when the paintings go from modern day to flashback were absolutely stunning, often with colours sweeping across the canvases. It’s easy to forget you’re watching individual paintings, especially when the framing changes and the paintings slowly zoom in on a character, changes focus, or widens the background, as you see in normal shot films.
Going into the film, I wasn’t really aware of who would be the faces and voices of some of the characters, but I was very surprised to spot Chris O’Dowd. Aidan Turner and Jerome Flynn come to life in the paintings. It was frankly quite surreal seeing these stars depicted as Van Gogh paintings, but that just added to whole wonderful experience. What was truly unique about this film too is that we are introduced to some of the characters and places in the film. New faces and places often had an opening/introductory shot that is exactly the same as some of the famous paintings that hang in museums today and have been seen by millions of people, making them instantly recognisable.
There was a whole range of emotions conveyed in this film by all the characters, and each and every painting portrayed them perfectly, whether it was little gestures, eye movements, creases in the forehead, and subtle mannerisms. Again, seeing how even the smallest of details were painted to convey a person’s emotions made it even easier to forget that these are paintings you’re watching and not actors in front of a camera with some sort of CGI or filter over them. Even in the background, there were lights subtly flickering, birds flying in the distance, water flowing down the river, and reflections in windows characters passed.
At just 90 minutes long, there’s a lot of story being told in a short amount of run time – although the short runtime can be forgiven, given the fact this film has been years in the making, with lots of hard work going into each and every painting. Some scenes feel like they just needed a few more lines of dialogue to feel a bit more genuine and less rushed, but all-in-all I can’t really fault this film. You’ll want to stay seated for the credits too as the characters and actors are shown side by side, along with the paintings they are based on. A lovely ending to this unique film.
It’s clear to see why ‘Loving Vincent’ has been getting a lot of love on the festival scene, but it’s a mighty shame that it has such a limited release here in the UK. It’s truly a cinematic experience like no other. If you can, I highly recommend you try to catch it in the cinema before it quietly leaves for good. One of the most beautiful films this year, hands down. You can learn more about the love, hard word, and dedication that went into this film right here.
Tom’s Rating: 9.0/10