By: Marie Defreitas
When I first heard about the Loving Vincent movie, I honestly could not have been more thrilled. Van Gogh is definitely one of my all-time favourites and how this movie was going to be done was incredibly exciting, because it’s unlike any other. I saw it last Thursday, at the Lucas Theatre where it was not only the premiere for the Southeast, but also the largest audience they said they had had so far. Which could be expected, they came to art school- they know what they were doing. Loving Vincent tells the story of Vincent van Gogh through the events leading up to his death. Each frame of this film is an oil painting, done in the classic impressionist style. There’s an astounding total of 65,000 paintings that make up this film, done by a team of over 100 artists. The live-action version of the movie was filmed first, then used as a reference for the artists to paint by. Going to SCAD, an art-school that has a fantastic animation program, and seeing animation majors like my roommate slave over a lightbox or computer animating for hours on end, I cannot imagine the intense patience, determination and perseverance that this film took. But I’m glad they saw it through, because it yielded a truly amazing result.
Besides the incredibly tedious technique the project took on, it didn’t stop there. Giving it a biopic type of quality, each character in the film is taken from those of van Gogh’s paintings. The doctor, the Roulin family, you name it. Each character takes their original form by the hand of van Gogh himself, portrayed by an actor, and then brought back to the canvas and into a mesmerizing style of animation. Writer/Director Dorota Kobiela, truly proves herself as an ambitious super woman on this project. A graduate from the Fine Arts academy in Warsaw, Kobiela originally intended to take on the project as her sixth animated short and paint the entire thing herself! “However once she expanded the project into a feature film the task of writing and directing was such that she had to content herself with directing the 125 painters,” reads the movie’s website. As we dive into the film we are alongside our lead character/narrator, Armand Roulin, the son of a postman who is sent by his father to deliver a letter to Vincent’s brother Theo. After discovering that Theo is dead as well, Armand begins to be drawn into the events surrounding Vincent’s death as he seeks out individuals all over Paris who knew him. The film, labeled as a drama crime film, takes on an intimate documentary-like feel as we hear several heartbreaking, captivating and jarring accounts of Vincent, each from a different perspective. As the story moves on we see Armand quickly falling down the rabbit hole of Vincent’s death as a reluctant detective.
A couple aspects I worried about in the film, proved to be all under control even just a few minutes in. One, I worried the impressionistic style would be too visually chaotic, with the colours, defined brush strokes and animated movements, I thought it could very easily be a headache and possibly more difficult than beautiful to watch. But it wasn’t. Each element was captured neatly and tightly, and still stayed true to the style. Flashbacks, which come into play quite a bit throughout the film, take on a slightly different style. It becomes more photo realistic and put into black and white. I loved this, because it not only gave our eyes several breaks from the active colours, but the style evoked a true sense of the photography surrounding the time and proved to be elegantly stunning. Besides this, each character shined with a unique personality and look and stayed true to both the actor portraying them and the original paintings. Two, I worried that because the film had such a clearly high focus on visual aesthetics, that the plot may become lost, blurred or not as carefully constructed. But this crew proved me wrong again. The story is riveting from start to finish. By drawing us in with intriguing and sincere characters, dynamic tension and a sense of chilling historic truth that stays in the back of your mind the entire time, this film never loses it grip on your attention. Even if you’re a tired college student who had an 8 am, and is basically being fueled by several cups of coffee. I would definitely say to check this one out. No, not just because I love van Gogh. (Although that may play into it). But because it’s unique. It has great actors. It has a fascinating story to tell. It’s not just another indie movie by some company you probably haven’t heard of, it’s a masterpiece that beams with creative integrity, talent and a nostalgic charm.