Earlier this year, my wife and I joined a walking tour around Montmartre, Paris – the guide mentioned about the apartment where Vincent and his brother Theo used to live in at Rue Lepic. In that walking tour, the guide also shared about Vincent Van Gogh’s life and history. He mentioned that there would be an animated feature film about his life that would be released shortly. So, when I found out that Loving Vincent had been included as one of Adelaide Film Festival’s line-up, I quickly booked a ticket as one of of my selection, before the session was sold out. So, what’s the verdict?
Loving Vincent is painstakingly shot frame by frame using oil painting, all 65,000 of them – by 100 artists in a Van Gogh style. It’s like immersing yourself in his ‘world’, and understanding more about what may have happened to him when he killed himself in 1890 in Auvers-sur-Oise, France. The movie takes place a year after Vincent’s death, when a letter from Vincent to his brother Theo is recently discovered. Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth) is the son of the local postman (Chris O’Dowd), and is given the task by his father to track Theo down, so he can pass the letter on to him. In the process, Armand discovers what may have happened to Vincent Van Gogh through the experience of the locals in Auvers-sur-Oise who were also the subjects of Van Gogh’s paintings.
The movie is beautifully drawn – I was awestruck when I left the theatre. Loving Vincent is one of the most beautiful movies I’ve seen in recent years. The narrative is conventional; the story and the flashbacks are presented one layer after the other beautifully. The actors, especially the Polish actor who plays Vincent (Robert Gulaczyk) and Theo (Cezary Lukaszewicz) are my personal stand-outs. They portray the two conflicted and troubled souls perfectly – even if Theo is only featured in much fewer frames. The writer-director team of Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman have created a magical living storybook that presents a possible set of events that led to Vincent Van Gogh’s death. The frames are wonderfully painted, the music is perfectly restrained. It’s just crowd-pleasingly brilliant.
I was tempted to hunt the content of the letter on the Internet and paste it here, but I don’t want to spoil the movie’s beauty for you. The last couple of scenes made me a bit teary – and the full-house theatre was quiet when the movie ended. After the credits rolled (just a tip, don’t leave too soon after the movie ends – you wouldn’t want to miss the “extras”), the audience broke into applause. I joined in, because it felt like a natural thing to do. I feel like I know Vincent, just a little bit better.