The pioneering film Loving Vincent brings the paintings of Vincent van Gogh to life to tell his remarkable story. More than 80 professional oil-painters traveled from across Europe to the Loving Vincent studios in Poland and Greece to hand oil paint each of the film’s 62,450 frames.
Why painting animation? Writer-Director Dorota Kobiela explained, “It is the best way I can imagine to tell Vincent van Gogh’s story. There have been many biopic films about him, but every time his paintings were there merely as a prop. In Loving Vincent, his paintings (130 of them) are the main character – his paintings are telling the story. Like Vincent said in his last letter to his brother: ‘We cannot speak other than by our paintings’. ”
As remarkable as Vincent’s brilliant paintings was his passionate and ill-fated life – and mysterious death. No other artist has attracted more legends than Vincent van Gogh. Variously labeled a martyr, a lustful satyr, a madman, a genius and a layabout, the real Vincent is at once revealed in his letters and obscured by myth and time. Vincent himself said in his last letter: ‘We cannot speak other than by our paintings.’ “We take him at his word and let the paintings tell the real story of Vincent van Gogh,” Kobiela said.
The Epiphany Behind Loving Vincent
How did Kobiela come up with the creative idea of creating a feature film out of animated painting? “It all started when I was in the moment of crisis in my life,” Kobiela said. “I had just finished a directing course in film school and was working in animation, but I was really missing painting. I felt that I needed to combine these passions and strike out on my own path.
“We are painting each frame of the film with oil paints on canvas – trying to keep as close as possible to his technique and style,” Kobiela continued. “Painting animation is normally done by 1-2 painting animators, so to create a feature film in the traditional way would take decades. We decided to train painters in animation instead of involving animators – this way we were able to create a much larger team. We also developed special Painting Animation Work Stations (PAWS) to simplify the process of animation. Of course all these are just tools to aid the painters, the most important thing for our film is the talent and skills of our painters, and their ability to transfer frames into Van Gogh painting style and bring his paintings to life.”
Loving Vincent was first shot as a live action film with actors and then hand-painted over frame-by-frame. The final effect is an interaction of the performance of the actors playing Vincent’s famous portraits, and the performance of the painting animators, bringing these characters into the medium of paint. Loving Vincent stars famous faces to match the famous paintings they portray…here is a synopsis:
France, Summer 1891. Armand Roulin (played by Douglas Booth), a feckless and directionless young man, is given a letter by his father, Postman Joseph Roulin (Chris O’Dowd), to hand-deliver to Paris. He is to deliver it to the brother of his father’s friend Vincent van Gogh, who, they have just heard, killed himself. Armand is none too pleased with the mission: He is embarrassed by his father’s association with Vincent, a foreign painter who cut off his ear and was committed to the local asylum.
In Paris there is no trace of the brother. His searching leads him to the paint supplier, Pere Tanguy (John Sessions), who tells him that the brother died shortly after Vincent, apparently destroyed by the death of his older brother.
Pere recounts how the brother helped Vincent on this incredible transformation from a down-and-out at 28 who had failed at three careers and was living in a barn in the mining district of the Borinage in Belgium with a bunch of books and no idea what to do next, to the new artistic sensation of Paris at the time of his death 10 years later. After hearing this story, Armand believes he may have misjudged his father’s friend, and really wants to know why, after such struggle, Vincent chose the moment of impending success to take his life: Pere has no answer to this.
So Armand journeys on to Vincent’s final destination, the quiet village of Auvers-sur-Oise, an hour outside Paris, to meet Doctor Paul Gachet (Jerome Flynn), Vincent’s doctor in his final weeks, to find the answer. The doctor is away for a couple of days.
Armand resolves to wait, during which time the villagers tell him different theories of why Vincent took his life and who is to blame.
While in Auvers-sur-Oise, Armand stays at the Ravoux Inn, where Vincent stayed for the last 10 weeks of his life, and where on July 29, 1890, he died of a bullet wound to his abdomen. Here Armand meets the innkeeper’s daughter, Adeline Ravoux (Eleanor Tomlinson). While he awaits Doctor Gachet’s return, Armand also interviews Doctor Gachet’s housekeeper, Louise Chevalier (Helen McCrory), the Doctor’s daughter, Marguerite Gachet (Saoirse Ronan), and by the river where Vincent often spent his days he meets the Boatman (Aidan Turner).
Armand gets the sense that the truth is being hidden from him, and feels like a pawn in overlapping village feuds. Armand is determined to root out the truth, for his father, for Vincent’s memory, and for himself. A run in with the local police, an unexpected encounter with a second Doctor, and finally his much anticipated meeting with the mercurial Doctor Gachet, lead to unexpected and heart-rending revelations, but also to Armand understanding and appreciating the passionate and surprising life of Vincent van Gogh.
In Europe and Asia, film distributors for Loving Vincent have been firmed up; however, a U.S. distributor and release date have yet
to be secured, but filmmakers speculate a release here sometime in 2017.
For more information, visit www.lovingvincent.com.