Never have I watched a film more alive and visually captivating than Loving Vincent. This film is beautiful. Hand-painted by 125 artists over six years, Loving Vincent is the first ever oil-painted feature film to grace our screens. Words cannot do it justice. Each frame swirls and pulses with life, celebrating the unconventional life and works of van Gogh.
Fueled by gossip, the film follows Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth) as he attempts to deliver van Gogh’s final letter to the artist’s brother and finds himself investigating the mysterious circumstances that led to the man’s alleged suicide. While not overly enthralling, the story manages to provide viewers with an interesting insight into van Gogh’s life while following Roulin’s attempt to piece together the complex nature of a man who was able to find beauty in the smallest details, despite a tortured and tumultuous life. The film doesn’t provide a definitive answer, or construct van Gogh as an easily digestible character—it paints him as intriguing and as eccentric as his art.
Although the oil-painted style required a visual adjustment from the audience—especially when the film panned, which was rather jarring—my appreciation for it never stopped building. The experimentation with deep and shallow focus could be jarring at times, and the panning shots were a little dizzying, but don’t let that dishearten you. The playful references to a number of van Gogh’s pieces, the shifts between the bold oil paints and the astonishing detail of the black and white frames—these captivating elements tie the film together and never let you forget that you are watching a visual masterpiece unfold.
If it weren’t for the complex beauty that Loving Vincent offered I would have been lost in the all-too familiar pain and frustration that accompanies the story of an individual who worked tirelessly to produce incredible things and never lived to see the high acclaim they deserved. Alan Turing’s Bombe, Bach’s compositions, Gregor Mendel’s work on genetics, van Gogh’s artwork, Emily Dickinson’s writing, Vivian Maier’s photography: these incredible people died before due acknowledgement, and many of them never received a cent for all their hard work. Van Gogh produced 900 paintings and 1,100 sketches and only sold one during his lifetime; he survived solely off of his brother’s ever-diminishing money. Now his paintings often sell for tens of millions of dollars; one of his pieces sold for more than $82 million—it is one of the most expensive artworks to this day. Van Gogh was truly an artist unloved in his time and adored in ours.
Loving Vincent is screening at Cinema Paradiso and Windsor Cinema.