Loving Vincent... what did I think about it?


This post is all about my artistic opinion on the recently released movie, Loving Vincent. The long awaited stop motion animation that was unique as it was done entirely using oil paints. So, what did I think about it?

Firstly, the storyline is very simple. The postman’s son, Armand Roulin, sets out to deliver a letter to Theo Van Gogh, and in doing so, tries to figure out what had happened to the troubled artist in the last few days of his life. He does this as a favour to his father, who was a dear friend of Vincent Van Gogh’s. As one learns from the movie, the artist's death was a bit of a mystery. In his letters later published by his remaining family, Vincent himself states that he tried to kill himself. That being said, it isn’t that simple, and some events may cause us to believe otherwise. An interesting story indeed, and very well told during this film.

How about the artistic side of this film? The whole project included over 100 artists painting thousands of pictures, 65,000 frames to be precise. The production was labour intensive, in that every painting was photographed then altered, (even just small differences in some cases) and another photo subsequently taken of the newly adjusted painting. This is done again and again, creating the illusion of movement, people talking, weather conditions etc. You must then add the challenge of having all the artists paint each frame in a seemingly similar style to that of Van Gogh, making the whole motion picture homogenous. Very difficult indeed, and well accomplished.

The colour in this movie was key, as with Van Gogh’s work, colour plays a huge role. To my artistic eye, I felt the artists were very true and accurate with Vincent’s colour palette. The use of warm yellows are very typical of the artist’s colour scheme in landscape, also pleasing dark blues when we are faced with night scenes. The flashback moments in the film were painted in monochrome, giving a somewhat sad sensation, standing out from the rest of the scenes.

From the landscape (also cityscape) scenes, one can clearly see the artists emulating the style Van Gogh accurately, more so than in scenes with interacting characters. Perhaps this precise depiction of Vincent’s style, gives us context as we are thrown into the world where the artist lived and painted. I personally felt that, regarding style, more artistic freedom was given to the artists when painting the scenes with characters. Of course they didn’t deviate too much from Vincent’s impressionist style, although it occurred to me that a slightly different effect was possibly required. I believe the viewer can understand this by comparing a Van Gogh portrait to the depicted character in the film. Not as much to compare the likeness in each characters’ face with the original portrait (which is of much lesser importance in my opinion) but really to compare the brushstrokes and infliction of the film’s frames with those of the artist’s work.

We must also remember the challenge of creating the illusion of movement. The ultimate test in this movie must be imparting a fluid motion, whether it’s talking or gesturing, to each character. Oil paintings are somewhat static in real life, and the production team did not rely on CGI for any part of the film, in other words, the hard way. This effect was also very well accomplished.

These characters were painted based off the likeness of the voice actors, with probably some slight modification to also bear likeness to the historic persons from Van Gogh’s portraits. I unfortunately haven’t seen the movie in the original language, so I cannot properly judge on the depiction of speech; i.e the visual effect of people talking in sync with the words spoken. However, the overall effect sought-after, was surely achieved and very impressive to say the least. A great job indeed.

My favourite characters were the Postman Joseph Roulin and Doctor Gachet. Van Gogh painted both these men, stunning portraits in real life and beautifully portrayed in the movie.

Ultimately, in my eyes, this film is a great masterpiece. It is definitely worth a watch, more so if you are an aspiring artist. I have personally seen the movie twice in theatres, and would gladly watch it again. It is truly impressive seeing how the hard work of many talented artists, actors and screenwriters has produced this beautiful film. A very touching homage to the great under appreciated artist. Vincent would surely be proud.

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