The film focuses on the artist’s final year in Auvers of 1890 where Van Gogh moved to recover from his breakdown. Under the supervision of Dr. Gachet he embarks on his last paintings including the portraits in which the various characters play out their part leading up to his death. As these subjects are portrayed in filmic animation they confess their role in the events in those final weeks.
The first fully painted feature film could not have a better choice of subject. Each and every frame is painted – all 65,000 of them. 115 painters dedicated their artistry to portray Vincent’s life and untimely death.
You see each painting as the theatre set and for the first time the characters within the pictures come alive as they tell their own story. The postman blinks and talks to you, the girl at the piano plunks a note and moves, the drunk in the All Night Cafe downs another absinthe.
The success and originality of the film is its seamless combination of both acting and animation and their synthesis into the painter’s brushstrokes.
The immersive effect is uncanny. The merging of characters with the now iconic paintings is captivating. Van Gogh’s plastic space and flattened perspective is magically transformed into theatre as the figures move through their setting – be it interior or landscape – and as they are portrayed with local colour and shadow they do not appear out of place. And not just for a sequence or two but throughout the entire feature. A tour de force.
Loving Vincent is not your customary cartoon dirgeful routine but an unexpected take on film making. It could just as easily have been a mistake since the artistic demands are challenging enough. It takes risk and vision to produce something original.