Loving Vincent (2016)
We first see a newspaper report telling us that “one van Gogh, aged 37, Dutch painter, staying at Auvers, shot himself with a revolver in the fields, but being only wounded, returned to his room, where he died two days later.” We are told that the events in this film take place one year after the death of Vincent van Gogh. We follow the camera as it pans down a street in Arles in 1891, stopping in front of a bar as two men head outside arguing. A man in a yellow coat, Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth), argues loudly with a soldier in a Fez hat and then hits him, cause the man to collapse on the ground. Armand heads back inside the bar. A Lieutenant (Robin Hodges) comes up and questions the obviously drunk soldier. The Lieutenant finds out that Armand is the reason the solider is on the ground. The Lieutenant, having been told that the letter on the ground is Armand’s, picks the letter up and goes inside, finding Armand looking at himself in the mirror.
The Lieutenant tries to give Armand the letter, but he tells him that it’s not his letter, it’s to be delivered to Vincent van Gogh’s brother, Theo. Armand has been given the task of taking the letter to Theo by his father. The letter was just found in Vincent’s old apartment when the landlord cleaned out the apartment, and Armand disagrees with his father. As Armand takes a bottle from a sleeping patron, he explains that Vincent isn’t worth the effort because he was crazy. Armand is still bitter that the town turned on his father after he refused to sign a petition to evict van Gogh. The Lieutenant explains that Vincent was OK until he took in fellow artist Paul Gaugin (Piotr Pamula) as a boarder. We see the two men argue, with Gaugin packing up and leaving a very distraught Vincent. Later, Vincent is seen wandering the streets muttering to himself. He heads into a brothel and hands a folded handkerchief to a working girl who screams as she opens the handkerchief and sees a bloody ear. We know through a flashback that Armand was the first to find Vincent laying on his bed bleed all over his bed, followed into the room by his father, the postman of the town, Joseph Roulin (Chris O’Dowd). Armand leaves the room shocked by what he sees while Joseph tries to comfort Vincent.
We cut to a passed out Armand in the bar, his head on the table asleep. Outside the bar, Joseph asks a couple of patrons sitting outside the bar about the whereabouts of his son as he is about to go on a train to Paris. They tell Joseph that his son is inside the bar and is in no shape to go anywhere. Joseph will make sure that his son sobers up and gets on that train. That train will take a journey of exploration into the life and death of Vincent Van Gogh and will change Joseph’s life forever.
Writer/directors Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman (along with writer Jacek Dehnel) bring us a gorgeous animated film that took over six years to complete. Van Gogh completed over 800 paintings and this film, animating with oil painting, took 125 artists to create over 65,000 panels to animate the film. The film uses over 120 of van Gogh’s better-known works to fill the landscape and its characters with color and vibrant visual scenes. The film is breathtaking to watch as it uses that same style of painting that van Gogh worked in, making his paintings come to life on the screen.
While the look of the film is unique and at times familiar (because of using so many famous paintings), the story-line is equally compelling. Instead of making an ordinary biographical picture, we get a mystery where Armand travels around the country investigating what made-up van Gogh and why did he commit suicide? We get to know van Gogh as Armand talks to everyone that was important in Vincent’s life. When characters think back to incidents in the past, the screen goes from the vivid colors of van Gogh paintings to a shockingly black-and-white world because this was before Vincent had learned to paint (he didn’t take up art until late in his life). Each person that Armand interviews, gives him different perspectives on Vincent, slowly peeling back the layers of a very complicated man. Some see him as evil and crazy, others see him as kind and creative, others see a troubled soul that was doomed from the start of his early childhood with a mother who didn’t pay attention to him and a father he could never please.
I learned a lot about Vincent watching Loving Vincent, and the plot kept me interested as the mystery of Vincent van Gogh gets more complicated as Armand furthers his investigation. The animation makes this such a joy to watch as we see the world through Vincent van Gogh’s eyes. Fans of his work are going to love how his paintings come to life, and people that don’t know much about his life or work will be stunned by how beautifully depicted his work is in this film. The only way to fully appreciate the wonder of this film, it has to be seen on the big screen as this movie creates a love letter to van Gogh’s magnificent, stunning paintings. Van Gogh produced works that continue to bring joy to a world, even if that world didn’t understand him at that time. As Vincent used to sign his letters to his beloved Theo with the saying “Loving Vincent,” you too will be loving Vincent if you go see this film. My Rating: Full Price
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
The film is currently playing in Atlanta at Regal Tara Cinema 4
For more of Mike’s reviews and interviews click here