Dorota Kobilela and Hugh Welchman (director)
13 October 2017 (released)
10 October 2017
Your enjoyment of Loving Vincent, as wonderful and innovative as it is, may largely depend on what you think of Van Gogh’s paintings and style. Writer/directors Dorota Kobilela and Hugh Welchman team of oil-painters hand painted all 65,000 frames of the film, using some 120 of Van Gogh’s paintings to create the scenes and characters. It was a massive undertaking, not to mention the animation, CGI and live actors.
The story deals with Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth) taking a letter from his father, who was a friend of Vincent to the late Vincent’s brother – this is set 12 months after his suicide. Reluctantly he goes to Paris and learns from paint supplier Pere Tanguy (John Sessions) that the brother has too passed on. He picks up some more information and Armand decides to investigate further and journeys to Vincent’s last residence at the village of Auvers-sur-Oise.
It is startling to look at though stripping away the paintings and animation we are left with a sort of detective story with Armand piecing together Vincent’s final days, as well as getting a feeling for his life in the village, and his work. This is played out through a number of conversations with the villagers, within Van Gogh’s paintings. The picture he builds isn’t altogether pleasant; of a man bullied and harassed though someone who himself was no model for society. The flashbacks in contrast to the colours are presented in a monochrome black and white, and are sublime.
The characters are portrayed by actors who either performed on sets designed to look like Van Gogh’s paintings or green-screens. So there’s a naturalism to the performances, even when they are overlaid with the colours of the original paintings. It’s initially distracting to see facial features flickering with ever changing colours. The look brings to mind the rotoscoping of A Scanner Darkly, though the slightly wobbly outlines the Rhubarb and Custard cartoons of the 1970’s too. You get used to it though occasionally there will be a flourish that sets you back.
The story is slight but that will not be the draw of Loving Vincent. It is a technical marvel, stunningly blending animation, live action and oil painting. It is unique, beautiful and well worth seeing whether you are Van Gogh fan or not.