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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.

Douglas Booth plays Armand Roulin

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.

The tale is simple, offers no conclusions, no wide-reaching insights, but illuminates a life of pain and suffering, but also a life of love, kindness, and evident genius. Van Gogh said, ‘We cannot speak other than by our paintings.’ Criticisms of the film’s script as being on the nose, ignore the fact that it is form of the film itself through which the work truly speaks. Much as Van Gogh couldn’t communicate everything he felt via words, so too the film allows the images of the great artist to say more than any verbose, clever script could hope to encapsulate. Moreover, I feel overly wrought dialogue would diminish the simple beauty of the tale, a tale of a simple man with a complex unprecedented talent. This is a tale of a real man, who suffered real pains, in a real world.

The stellar cast of voice actors perform their roles with a frank honesty, and again a touching realism. The credits show the actors and their artistic counterparts, and this highlights the artistic brilliance of the project. Where blockbusters of the oeuvre of Michael Bay, and the stream of Marvel pictures regurgitated each year, seek to overwhelm through sensory overload, ‘Loving Vincent’ achieves a deeper sensory exposure via subtlety and beauty. This is bold film making, and it is reassuring to see that the new will always be powerful and surprising.

Ultimately, ‘Loving Vincent’ is a truly unique animated project, and more broadly a reminder of the magic of cinema that has kept generations of movie goers marvelling at the silver screen.