Loving Vincent(2017) Review

Director : Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman
Genre : Animation, Biopic, Drama
Synopsis : In a story depicted in oil painted animation, a young man comes to the last hometown of painter Vincent van Gogh to deliver the troubled artist's final letter and ends up investigating his final days there. 

When Art Imitates Art!

Pablo Picasso once said that painting is just another way of keeping a diary. For some artists, painting can be an immensely personal experience, in which the artist tries to inject a tiny bit of his personality onto a blank canvas. Each stroke has a thought behind it. Each expression has a feeling attached to it. Each background has a whole story to convey. 

Films are just another form of art that is shaped by our personal experiences. Some of the most profound filmmakers create movies as a way to cope up with the struggles of their past and essentially document an experience by touching wordless secrets in a way that only the cinema can discover, while others use the medium to ponder upon their future and their insecurities. Some of the most deeply personal films are never about the narrative, but focus more on providing a snapshot of the private lives of their principal characters. 

Holding the unique distinction of being the world's first and only fully oil painted feature film, Loving Vincent brings to life the tragic figure of Vincent van Gogh, who is vastly credited for being the father of modern art. Over the course of its 95 minutes run-time, in true Rashomon(1950) style, we get several perspectives from various characters into what sort of a man Vincent was in life. Little by little, we begin to understand him, almost as if we are reading the contents of his own intimate diary. Here was a man who felt he was a non-entity in the eyes of those that surrounded him. And here was a man who had failed in nearly everything he tried to do in life, who finally took to painting at the age of 28 to show to the world through his art, what this non-entity had in his heart. What a sad man. What a brief glory. And as one character says, nobody ever paid as much attention to him while he was alive, than now when he was dead. 

The film touches upon various themes of depression and loneliness, and hint at how the seeds of depression can be planted early on, in childhood itself. How academic failure and one's inability to live up to their parent's standards can result in one to suffer from low self esteem as they grow up. How even a mere shrug from a loved one in childhood can have permanently damaging effects for the rest of the person's life. 

Loving Vincent is the kind of film that may only appeal to a niche audience. But I'll highly recommend it to any creative person, for this is a film that supports the age-old idea that all great work is born out of suffering. Art isn't just raw feelings poured out onto the canvas/paper/celluloid, but an interplay of matter and form, emotions and discipline. The film's focus on the artist's ability to channelize his melancholy into something that the world interprets in a thousand different ways, does make for thought-provoking cinema. 

That the film manages to incorporate some of the artist's most celebrated works such as The Starry Night(1889) and Sorrowing Old Man(1890), into it's own narrative is applaud-worthy. What's also praiseworthy is the filmmaker's brave choice to opt for classically trained oil painters, over traditional animators with personalized styles, who have painstakingly painted over 65000 frames, each of which have been stitched together over a period of four years, to create a film set in the late 19th century Europe. 

Clint Mansell's score perfectly captures the melancholy and joy of the man that the world came to know as Vincent van Gogh only after his death. Visually innovative, this Oscar nominated film(Best Animated Feature Film) is a landmark event in the history of animated films, a movie that organically marries the traditional forms of art with the more modern cinematic medium of storytelling. And while it may fall only slightly short in terms of narrative, there is no denying its majestic vision of capturing the romantic ideal of a tortured artist.

I'm going with 3.5/5.


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