Painting a Passion: Loving Vincent

Two years ago I stumbled upon a teaser for Loving Vincent while scrolling aimlessly through my facebook homepage. The video called for more artist to help complete the first feature length oil paint animation. Not having the skills to contribute, I have restored to eagerly awaiting its release. The project ultimately took over six years to make. One hundred and twenty-five artists created 65,000 oil-painted frames to depict the life and death of Vincent Van Gogh. Are the creators insane? Yes, but thank goodness they are.

Aesthetically there is no denying that Loving Vincent directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, is a wonder. The movie is a true artistic feat, mesmerizing and captivating. It took several minutes to adjust to the stimulation of the moving paintings in front of me. Awe struck by the sure time and diligence it took to produce such film, I had to remind myself to pay attention to the story.

The film takes place in 1891, one year after Vincent’s mysterious death.The movie follows Armand Roulin, son of Vincent’s postman, as he tries to deliver Vincent’s last letter to his brother Theo.  Armand first sees this request from his father as an obligation, but becomes invested in the tragic tale of the artist.  He travels to Auvers-sur-Oise, a French town in which Vincent spent his last weeks, determined to uncover why the artist decided to end his life. In his journey, Armand interacts with those who knew the artist during his stay (most of which who were the subject of his paintings).

The death and life of the artist are depicted in present day and flashback, shown through two aesthetic styles. The world he lived in is depicted in gray balance – the paintings and scenes romantically smooth and enticing. The present day world he left behind reflects his painting style and how he perceived the world; beauty and color and brush marks. The real world was the real beauty the artist saw. The past was the facts but not life. This juxtaposition of the flashback and the world Vincent left behind is a beautiful sentiment to such an influential artist.

I came into the movie thinking that the story would not be as strong as the aesthetic. But these were two separate pieces complementing one man and in doing so compliment each other.

To my surprise the plot was stronger than I had anticipated. Maybe I am bias, as a supposed struggling artist‚ (granted I haven’t gotten to the cut off ear point yet). It is strong in hope and tragedy. It is a celebration of attempting to find a connection between self and the world. A sad and brief life of a man who was burdened by the idea of disappointing others and seeing beauty in the common things life offered.

Would the movie have been as enticing if it was live action? No, but that would defeat the purpose of the form. Sometimes it is hard to remember that technical and aesthetic approach is not just to entice the viewer, but its main goal is to support meaning and narrative.

In the end, the truth of Vincent’s end does not matter. In his short career, Vincent made 800 paintings and only one was sold in his lifetime. He is now known as the father of modern art. The success in his lifetime was not depicted by his work, but how his passion and love was clearly witnessed by others. It is a testament to a man whose passion drove him not his demise, but to his need to find the importance in life.

Loving Vincent is a beautiful contemplation of passion and the individual’s affect on a community.

I give Loving Vincent 8.5 oil paints out of 10.

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