In a world of Michael Bay, Transformers, the Marvel and DC juggernauts of explosions, disintegrating buildings, and scales of epic proportions, the word spectacle can seem tired or mundane. Something the viewership has come to expect, and something which one can rationalise and predict and quickly forget. ‘Loving Vincent’ is a singularly unique viewing experience, that for this viewer at least, has reawakened my appreciation of true spectacle, and reminded me about the impact of truly powerful cinema.
‘Loving Vincent’, written and directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, is a feat of extraordinary artistic devotion and skill. A team of 115 painters, having developed their technique for three years prior to production, handcrafted 65,000 individual oil painted canvases for each frame. The attention to detail is evident in every shot, with fluid brush strokes creating a living image on the screen, that is lasting and affecting even long after leaving the theatre. One catches oneself with a gaping mouth and dumbfounded expression, as the texture and resonance of such famous paintings is rendered alive. The film has a quality of workmanship, pride in making the best of something, that has seemed somewhat lost in the conveyor belt regularity of summer blockbusters and lightweight comedies. In short, the audacity and ambition of the artistic project, is matched only by the intimacy and wonder it creates in the viewer.
The tale of ‘Loving Vincent’ follows Armand Roulin, son of Van Gogh’s famous postmaster and subject, Joseph Roulin, and his quest to deliver a letter written by Vincent to his brother Theo. What ensues is a humble tale of discovery and realisation. Armand tracks the impact the great artist had upon the community of Auvers-sur-Oise, the town which Van Gogh had retired to seek medical help from Dr Gachet before his suicide. On his odyssey he finds the suicide of Van Gogh may not have been so black and white as the rumours surrounding it would suggest.