With Every Stroke, You’ll Be “Loving Vincent”

"Loving Vincent" is playing in Grand Rapids.

As the world’s first fully oil-painted feature film, “Loving Vincent” is a well-crafted tribute to one of the most famous artists of all time. Directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, more than 100 painters collaborated on this film to bring van Gogh’s paintings and impasto style to life. With every shot, viewers are pulled into the world of van Gogh’s masterpieces as they take a closer look at the artist’s life and death.

Although his death was widely known, the reasons behind it remained a mystery. A year after Vincent van Gogh’s death, Postman Roulin (Chris O’Dowd) instructs his reluctant son Armand (Douglas Booth) to deliver van Gogh’s last letter to his brother Theo. Armand’s curiosity with van Gogh’s death though quickly turns the delivery into an investigation as the more people Armand speaks to, the more confused he becomes. How and why did the artist die? Was van Gogh suicidal or could he have been murdered?

Interviews with those who knew van Gogh, such as Père Tanguy (John Sessions), Louise Chevalier (Helen McCrory), Adeline Ravoux (Eleanor Tomlinson), the Boatman (Aidan Turner), Marguerite Gachet (Saoirse Ronan), and Doctor Gachet (Jerome Flynn), all provide conflicting stories, leaving the audience to wonder did anyone truly know him?

However, van Gogh’s paintings speak for him as Kobiela and Welchman base each character in the film on a real person van Gogh painted. Kobiela and Welchman’s love and appreciation for van Gogh was evident through their clever use of introducing each character in the same pose as van Gogh painted them, such as framing the scenes with Marguerite Gachet at the piano and Dr. Gachet and Adeline Ravoux in their portrait positions.

Because this film has well-known actresses and actors starring in it, their faces are recognizable, which can be a bit distracting in some scenes. However, each character was chosen with great care as the resemblance between the characters in the film and van Gogh’s portraits are strikingly memorable.

With Clint Mansell’s powerful score, the dramatic tension is intensified through the contrasting worlds of smooth, black and white flashbacks and the bold and dynamic brush strokes, exploding with colors in the characters’ present-day world. Swirling transitions smoothly blend from past to present, allowing viewers to effortlessly jump in and out of all the characters’ perspectives and stories of van Gogh.

Though the plot was not filled with lively action, the most impressive element of this film is the meticulous work required to recreate van Gogh’s finest paintings. Artists painted 65,000 frames in oil paints for this film and just watching the colors spiral and merge together will mesmerize audiences.

Throughout this film, it is clear that everyone who worked on “Loving Vincent,” had been inspired and touched by his art. With every stroke, viewers will also notice the strong emotions packed behind all his masterpieces. Although fans of van Gogh will adore this film, anyone interested in van Gogh’s life and his artwork will also be amazed by all the vivid and powerful images in this biographical animated drama.

“Loving Vincent” is playing at the UICA through Dec. 20. You can also catch the film at Celebration Cinema! Woodland Mall.

*Photo courtesy of UICA

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