What a gorgeous, mesmerizing and sad experience.
Depicting the last months of Dutch post-impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh’s life in France, the story follows a post master’s son and his attempts to deliver the artist’s final letter to his brother.
How can you write a review of Loving Vincent without immediately talking about the animation style first and foremost? This is a film running at ninety-four minutes long that is entirely oil painted, reflecting the artist’s preferred medium. That is over sixty-six thousand, nine hundred paintings to properly animate frame-by-frame, enlisting eighty-eight experienced painters to replicate the style of the famous artist consistently. It is bewildering and incredible to behold, the director bringing the “camera” (initially blocked in with actors and animated scenes before every frame was “painted over” in oil) sweeps through familiar settings straight from Van Gogh’s impressive line of works. The film makers worked tirelessly to get emotion from the characters even after these processes, sticking true to the artist’s renditions of those people at the time.
The film is nominated for Best Animation in the Academy Awards, and the world would truly be mad if it did not win it.
The film is a love letter to the famous artist by artist-turn-director Dorota Kobiela, who started the project in 2012 and watched it bloom into a full scale endeavor. The film sticks rigidly to the perspective of Armand Roulin, the son of a postal worker who is reluctant in his task of delivering Van Gogh’s final letter to his brother. But upon arriving and finding out Theo Van Gogh had passed on as well… Armand takes it upon himself to investigate what happened around Vincent’s death.
As such, the film only tepidly explores who Vincent was, focusing on the twilight of his life, starting proceedings with the well known incident of him cutting his own ear off. Though that is perhaps the most dramatic, well known and perhaps creative time, it is a little sad how the film takes place after his death. But this could be considered all the more thematic.
The film is also somewhat aggravating in that it is in English, despite being about a Dutchman living in France. Vincent is depicted as a despised foreigner, heaping our sympathy for him and showing the antagonists everywhere, but more power could have been shown had characters not all spoken in English accents and language.
But, it is impossible to keep this argument up for long; the film is clearly a product of raw passion and dedication to the man’s life and his raw emotion. It is impossible for anyone creative or of artistic mind to not break down at some point while watching this; Loving Vincent shows a troubled and socially dismissed man who wasn’t given the love and appreciation he had deserved.
Armand’s quest becomes an investigation into the artist’s death, and this is the meat of the film’s story. As the audience learns about Vincent and the prejudice he was subjected to, we rally behind Armand’s dedication to find out why the talented man had met such an end. All the more emotional when things aren’t mysterious, but simply tragedies.
Loving Vincent is an emotional powerhouse with incredible artistry and dedicated love behind it. A simple story but packed with feeling.
Additional Marshmallows: And so begins the debate of how to pronounce his name. I feel like I am twelve again.
Additional, additional Marshmallows: At university I once did a watercolour animation. It was only ten seconds (that’s 240 paintings) and making it felt like a life time!