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'Loving Vincent': A loving homage to Van Gogh

Asmara Wreksono
Asmara Wreksono

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Fri, March 2, 2018  /  05:10 pm

Nominated for Best Animated Feature Film at the 2018 Oscars, Loving Vincent is not your average animated movie. Directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, it’s the world’s first-ever oil-painted full feature movie and involved 125 painters from over 20 countries, who were narrowed down from 5,000 applicants.

The biopic focuses on the last days of painter Vincent Van Gogh’s life, and explores the possibility of him being shot instead of committing suicide.

One year after Van Gogh (Robert Gulaczyk) takes his own life, Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth), son of local postman Joseph Roulin (Chris O’Dowd), embarks on a journey to deliver Van Gogh’s last letter to his brother, Theo. Armand’s delivery journey begins in Paris where Pére Tanguy (John Sessions), a paint dealer, leads him to Auvers-sur-Oise, where Van Gogh was treated by his doctor, Dr. Gachet (Jerome Flynn). The reluctant Armand continues to get insights about Van Gogh from the locals he meets at Auvers: Gachet’s bitter housekeeper, Louise Chevalier (Helen McCrory); the local inn’s proprietress, Adeline Ravoux (Eleanor Tomlinson); Gachet’s daughter Marguerite Gachet (Saoirse Ronan); and a nameless boatman (Aidan Turner).

Read also: World's first hand-painted film vies for an Oscar

The multiple, sometimes contradictory insights on who Van Gogh was, his eccentricity and how he lived, evokes Armand’s curiosity as to how the painter really died, especially after meeting a doctor who did a posthumous examination of Van Gogh, Dr. Mazery. Unlike others who believe the painter’s death was suicide and opt to remain silent, Mazery insistently claims that Van Gogh must have been shot from a distance because at point blank range the bullet would have penetrated through his body, which was not the case. Through his investigation, Armand also begins to suspect a local bully, René Secretan, who liked tormenting Van Gogh.

A total of 65,000 frames in oil paint on more than 850 canvases, 3,000 liters of Royal Talens "Van Gogh" brand paint and a span of four years in the making, Loving Vincent is more than just a labor of love. It is an adoration of Van Gogh’s art, an extraordinary tribute to the style that crowned him posthumously as the father of modern art. Artists involved in the project trained to paint in Van Gogh’s style, at the same time exploring uncharted realms in animation.

Read also: Artist invited to help paint film about Van Gogh

With every brush stroke breathing life to the animation, the biopic presents two drawing styles in telling Van Gogh’s story. The homage to the tortured painter’s colorful, whimsical style in Armand’s present time, and black and white realist paintings in the flashbacks. The stark contrast completes the story, providing a more comprehensive plot for those who may not have any art background.

Loving Vincent, much like Van Gogh's paintings, is a combination of vivid, vibrant and lively colors in the exploration of a very dark happening to a beautiful but troubled soul of an artist. It is a royal feast for the eyes, an earnest approach to a life story and a great masterpiece in its own right. The whole movie embodies Van Gogh’s life works, and to sum up, it is exactly what American author Rainbow Rowell said in her book Eleanor and Park: “Art is not supposed to be beautiful. It’s supposed to make you feel something.”

Enjoy and see how it makes you feel.


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