Firstly I have to thank the Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle for putting on a couple of screenings of this film; you have no idea how much I appreciate it.
This film has been on my radar for a long time because Vincent Van Gogh is one of my favourite artists. For once I was interested in seeing a film not because of plot or characters, which is what normally attracts me. It was something else, something that I’m not normally interested by, and something I usually scoff at if the story/character development or similar isn’t the selling point of a film.
I wanted to see this film because of the techniques employed to make it. In other words the special effects. Except unlike with supposedly ground-breaking films like Avatar (shudders), this film had something very special going for it.
That is because ‘Loving Vincent’ is the first ever full-length hand-painted animation to be made. Each frame is an oil painting. Even more wonderfully the filmmakers used Van Gogh’s paintings as initial references for putting together the story board, and then the 125 artists involved (who specialise in oil painting) used his aesthetic style to create the 65,000 frames of the film, which you can see here in the trailer.
And the result is one of the most unique and beautiful films I have ever had the pleasure of watching. Admittedly, I am bias due to my partiality for his work, however, anyone who appreciates how beautiful oil paintings are can appreciate this film. And if you don’t have that appreciation yet this film will show you why oil is such an enduring medium.
If you only know Van Gogh’s oil paintings via prints or digital images, and being able to see original Van Gogh’s in person isn’t possible (though if you can get to Amsterdam a visit to the Van Gogh Museum is a must), then I highly recommend you check out this film.
What you will be able to see then is the rich texture of his work. His paintings aren’t flat, they have a lovely flowing texture and using his style of painting for animating a story demonstrates the gentle grace and movement of the world he captured in his work. The wheat fields ripple; the crows flap hard as they fly up; the expressions of the characters are very natural and are more three dimensional than any 3D film I’ve seen.
If you know his work well, every now and then one of his paintings will leap out at you off the screen, but equally it doesn’t matter if you don’t either. The vividness of the colour employed is stunning, and contrasts very well indeed with all of the black and white flashbacks.
I was surprised at the use of black and white because Van Gogh’s later works are so colourful, but it made perfect sense to do so. It suited the narrative, which is an exploration into the death of the artist. The sombre palette complements the subject matter; depression and suicide.
However, the use of colour for the living world, the present moment, is a strong contrast to the past. The vividness of life is celebrated using the vivid bright palette Van Gogh is famous for using in his latter years.
While I have read in other reviews and I heard in the cinema from others there that the narrative could have been developed more, I don’t agree. Fine, while not much happens everything that needs to be said is said, and the narrative written is hardly simple. The mystery of his death is explored fully by the protagonist Roulin; I don’t see how adding anymore would have been needed.
I found the film to be very respectful of both the artist’s life, his death and the legacy he left behind. And more than that, as well as bringing movement to his landscapes, the film has brought the people he painted to life as well.
I highly recommend the film, and that you check out the film’s official website so you can learn more about this true masterpiece of technical achievement.