Loving Vincent: An Animated Film of Paintings Reimagines Van Gogh’s Last Days
Art & Design
Many movies have been made about Vincent Van Gogh—has there ever been an artist whose life (and death) were more camera-ready?—but Loving Vincent, a film to be released later this year, may turn out to be the most visionary. In what has to be a technological first, this feature-length film will be comprised entirely of hand-painted images—each frame a fully realized oil-on-canvas, bearing eerie imitations of Van Gogh’s distinct brushwork—that aim to translate his hypnotic body of work into a single animated narrative of a brief, tragic life. The masterminds behind Loving Vincent, Polish Director Dorota Kobiela and Oscar-winning British producer Hugh Welchman, have labored over the project for two painstaking years, finally releasing the full-length trailer of the film yesterday, Vincent Van Gogh’s 163rd birthday.
Breathing new life into the familiar Van Gogh story—unrecognized talent, unrequited love, self-mutilation, self-inflicted death by gunshot—is no easy matter. Poverty, obscurity, and bouts of insanity have rarely been as romanticized as they have in films devoted to Van Gogh, but Kobiela and Welchman sought to eschew the standard biopic in favor of leveraging Van Gogh’s paintings and writings in an entirely original way. Kobiela, whose training is in fine art , made Van Gogh the subject of her Master’s thesis, and had long wanted, she says, to make “a painting animation film. I quickly decided that I wanted to do an atmospheric film about Vincent’s last days using the very expressive and emotional style of his paintings.” She pitched the project o Welchman, who had won the Best Animated Short Subject Oscar in 2006 for the film Peter & the Wolf, who admitted, “I was embarrassingly unknowledgeable about art history when Dorota pitched the project to me,” but quickly succumbed to Van Gogh’s spell. “I became fascinated by his story and I read books on him, read his letters and visited lots of museums that had his works.”
Loving Vincent imagines the aftermath of Van Gogh’s death—an event under recent scrutiny by scholars, some of whom suggest that the artist’s gunshot death may not have been a suicide, after all, but an accident, or something more nefarious—and focuses on the last days leading up to that fateful day in July 1890. “The film is an investigation into his death by his postman and close friend from Arles, Joseph Roulin, and his son, Armand Roulin, who was a policeman.” says Kobiela. Bringing the story to life involved recruiting and training hundreds painters, and an inconceivably arduous animation process in which 12 paintings are required for a single-second shot. The daunting task is one that Kobiela embraces. “I consider it a huge privilege to be able to make this film, and my main challenge is to make sure I deliver a wonderful film that will thrill and intrigue audiences, make them all want to know more about Vincent and come out feeling like they have seen something special.” That sounds like a pretty worthwhile payoff for loving Vincent.