“Loving Vincent”  (2017)

Drama

images

Running Time: 95 minutes

Written & Directed by: Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman

Featuring:  Robert Gulaczyk, Douglas Booth, Jerome Flynn, Saoirse Ronan, Helen McCrory, Chris O’Dowd, John Sessions, Eleanor Tomlinson, Aidan Turner

Vincent van Gogh: “What am I in the eyes of most people – a nonentity, an eccentric, or an unpleasant person – somebody who has no position in society and will never have; in short, the lowest of the low. All right, then – even if that were absolutely true, then I should one day like to show by my work what such an eccentric, such a nobody, has in his heart.”

“Loving Vincent” (2017) is a most unusual film, it is animated, by hand, reflecting some of the subject, Vincent van Gogh’s own style while at the same time covering many different time periods of his life and subsequent death. The main narrative is set over a short amount of time, after the artists seeming suicide by gunshot. This type of partial biopic is not new, that is the way it is told, what is unique is the way in which the filmmakers seemingly wanted to illustrate the artists work as well as how this changed the way in which people viewed paintings as well as the link between life, art and the struggles that van Gogh went through his entire life. Through “Loving Vincent” the viewer will learn about the anguish the artist lived through most of his life as well as moments of happiness he also enjoyed, if there is one thing that is made clear is that while he was known as a tortured artist he was loved by members of his family and friends as well as loving other people. This film also seems timely as van Gogh did suffer from depression or even a bipolar disorder, of course undiagnosed at the time, which ultimately was possibly one of the causes of his apparent suicide. This is an eye opening film not only does it open a window into van Goghs life and death, it also starts a conversation around mental health as well as suicide in a way that it has to be said is noting short of breathtaking, I absolutely loved this film, it touches on an artists work as well as his life, especially the last part of that life like few films have ever done before, particularly in a purely emotional way that an audience can feel in a real and palpable way.

“Loving Vincent” has been written and directed by Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman who both come from very different backgrounds, but who have created a film that is accessible yet educational about one of the greatest painters in history, as well as someone who is misunderstood in terms of the life he led, including the social and mental issues that he dealt with on a daily basis for his entire short life. The directors have been able to organise as well as bring together 125 painters to generate the cells that were needed to bring a story to life that reflected the artist’s own revolutionary style to such a degree that the viewer may not realise what they are actually viewing, the artists own work and life remixed and reflected on a canvas that will be seen by an absolutely huge audience. The directors have chosen a medium that is not only complex, but took over four years to complete, which meant that at times this entire process was frustrating as well as a giant undertaking to pay homage to not only van Gogh but all the people that worked on this unique work of translated art, it is something to behold. I recommend viewing on a large television with a great picture as it does look breathtaking.

The film begins one year after Vincent van Gogh’s suicide, Postman Joseph Roulin asks his son Armand to deliver Van Gogh’s last letter to his brother, Theo. Roulin finds the death suspicious, as merely weeks earlier Van Gogh claimed through letters that his mood was calm and normal. Armand reluctantly agrees and heads for Paris.

On the surface it may seem that casting voice talent is not a major part of the process of an animated film, but in regard to “Loving Vincent” this ends up being just as important as as anything else in the process, there has been no stunt casting here like there sometimes is in Hollywood animated movies, so here we have an excellent cast full of very good and recognisable actors from television and film. There is no doubt that the leads of this film are Douglas Booth as Joseph Roulin and Robert Gulaczyk as van Gogh who are both excellent, they have to portray characters that are not simple or one dimensional, in fact they are both layered and curious about life as well as how people can feel emotions so differently, of course these questions are basic to our existence as well where that will ultimately lead. As you would expect the rest of the film is rounded out with some excellent character actors who are all completely dedicated to their roles as witnesses to the last days of van Gogh as well as people telling their own stories that make up what a memory is as well as the absolute helplessness they feel in terms of the fate of the artist. The highlights are pretty obvious, these all must have been attractive parts to play to not only be a part of a film about van Gogh but to also be a part of a unique film that had the potential to touch many lives. My favourites were the always underrated Jerome Flynn as a somewhat fellow artist and friend who holds the key to many of the reasons behind the suicide, Saoirse Ronan always fantastic here shows why she is one of the great young actresses working today. The rest of the cast is rounded out with some fantastic U.K. actors in Helen McCrory, Chris O’Dowd, John Sessions and Aidan Turner who all are as authentic as could be. They all add very different aspects to this animated film in that they give so much authenticity to their parts that it flows through to the rest of the film.

“Loving Vincent” is a film that whilst it revolves around van Gogh, is about a great many ideas as well as themes. It represents the artist as a tortured soul who must feel pain and anguish to produce truly great work, as well as timeless work. Beneath that however is the underlying mental health issues that van Gogh suffered from, that he was unaware of as were the people of the time, except for the diagnosis of Melancholia which is a form of major depressive disorder, although at the time it would not have been known how serious this was or the effects it could have on a person. There are various theories about the artists health but two of the popular ones were that he suffered fromTemporal Lobe Epilepsy as well as a possible Bipolar disorder.

Van Gogh suffered from seizures which doctors, including Dr. Felix Rey and Dr. Peyron, believed to be caused by temporal lobe epilepsy. Van Gogh was born with a brain lesion that many doctors believe was aggravated by his prolonged use of absinthe causing his epileptic condition. Dr. Gachet, another of Van Gogh’s physicians, was thought to have treated his epilepsy with digitalis. This prescription drug can cause one to see in yellow or see yellow spots. This may have been one of the reasons why Van Gogh loved this color. Due to Van Gogh’s extreme enthusiasm and dedication to first religion and then art coupled with the feverish pace of his art production many believe that mania was a prominent condition in Van Gogh’s life. However, these episodes were always followed by exhaustion and depression and ultimately suicide. Therefore, a diagnosis of bipolar disorder or manic depression makes sense with the accounts of these episodes in Van Gogh’s life.

“Loving Vincent” is a film that has at its heart a story about part of the life of Vincent van Gogh who is one of the most influential artists who ever lived. This film actually performs a number of jobs it tells a story about the man, gives insight into his process as well as his interactions with people and also with its use of animation visually gives the viewer an idea of what his art actually looked like. What I loved about this film was that you needn’t have known much about the man as it unfolds over the running time, not only that but with the ending credits there is even more revelations about the artist’s work, as well as some of the inspiration from many of his more well-known paintings, do not miss this movie, it is a must see!

“Loving Vincent” is available now on DVD.

Starry
Starry night
Paint your palette blue and grey

Look out on a summer’s day
With eyes that know the
Darkness in my soul.
Shadows on the hills
Sketch the trees and the daffodils

Catch the breeze and the winter chills

In colors on the snowy linen land.
And now I understand what you tried to say to me

How you suffered for your sanity
How you tried to set them free.
They would not listen
They did not know how

Perhaps they’ll listen now.

Starry
Starry night
Flaming flo’rs that brightly blaze

Swirling clouds in violet haze reflect in
Vincent’s eyes of China blue.
Colors changing hue
Morning fields of amber grain

Weathered faces lined in pain
Are soothed beneath the artist’s
Loving hand.
And now I understand what you tried to say to me

How you suffered for your sanity
How you tried to set them free.
Perhaps they’ll listen now.

For they could not love you
But still your love was true

And when no hope was left in sight on that starry
Starry night.
You took your life
As lovers often do;
But I could have told you
Vincent
This world was never
Meant for one
As beautiful as you.

Starry
Starry night
Portraits hung in empty halls

Frameless heads on nameless walls
With eyes
That watch the world and can’t forget.
Like the stranger that you’ve met

The ragged men in ragged clothes

The silver thorn of bloody rose
Lie crushed and broken
On the virgin snow.
And now I think I know what you tried to say to me

How you suffered for your sanity

How you tried to set them free.
They would not listen
They’re not
List’ning still
Perhaps they never will.

 

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