'Loving Vincent'

By: 
John Thomas, Movie Critic

By John Thomas

Vincent Van Gogh (Robert Gulaczyk) writes a letter to his beloved brother Theo and signs it “your loving Vincent.” One year after Vincent’s death the letter is returned to the local postmaster Roulin (Chris O’Dowd), stamped “unable to deliver.” Concerned that Vincent’s last letter should be delivered to his brother, Roulin entrusts his son Armand (Douglas Booth), to find Theo and place the letter in his hand. Armand does not want this task, but out of respect for his father and affection for Vincent, he reluctantly sets out on this soon-to-be troublesome journey.

When Armand discovers that Theo is also deceased, he continues his quest for the next family member to take possession of the letter. As he continues his search, he ends up in the small town of Auvers-sur-Oise, a northwestern suburb of Paris, where Vincent last lived and painted. He checks into the same inn Vincent once used and begins his inquiries. As his investigation continues, a curious question arises: what was the actual cause of Vincent’s death? Was it suicide or murder? Speaking with the residents of the town, the answer becomes more illusive, complex and causes additional questions to arise.

This is the story. What is so remarkable about the film is the genius to tell it in this way. The artistic brilliance of the artists used to create it is pure wizardry. Over 100 gifted traditional painters (not animators) were engaged to paint this, the worlds first animated feature using oil paints. Not surprising, the film is in the style of Vincent Van Gogh, who later came to be considered the “father of modern painting.”

The field in which someone is working is from one of Vincent’s own many landscapes. The exterior of a cafe is a another painting, but this time the light spreading from bulbs wiggle and flicker, the stars in the night sky twinkle and sparkle and the people move about. Dr. Gachet (Jerome Flynn) dozes for a moment as he awaits his meeting with Armand. It is the exact pose used in one of Vincent’s many paintings of Dr. Gachet. In the film however, he awakens as Armand approaches and they have their conversation.

The cast members resemble the many people Vincent used as subjects for his paintings. Postmaster Roulin is dressed in the appropriate costume, but the face and eyes are those of Chris O’Dowd - his voice is also recognizable. The representation of Armand appears similar to those of the actor speaking the role. Vincent painted Armand several times in different clothes. The outfit used in the film is the one in which he is dressed in an elegant fedora, vivid yellow coat with black waistcoat and tie.

In the short period of eight years, Vincent painted over 800 paintings - only one of which sold in his lifetime. Seeing this film is like standing behind the great painter, looking over his shoulder as he vigorously mixes and applies paint to his canvases. One sees the images develop right before one’s eyes just as Vincent once did. 

95 Minutes

johan@beachcomber.news

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