Hand-painted, with love: Loving Vincent

Hand-painted, with love: Loving Vincent

22 February 2018 0 By Willem van den Heever

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. With computer generated effects and digital 3D sculpting having become the norm for animation in cinema, Loving Vincent – a 2D animated film completely done in oil paintings – is a frontier- and groundbreaking film.

Writers and directors, Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman have created something very rarely seen in filmmaking. This, however, is also proof that not everything in cinema has been done, and not everything we see on screen today is just a copy of a story already been told. It is groundbreaking even as a story, as we get new insight into the last days of Vincent van Gogh, very few people knew about.

Loving Vincent

Set after the legendary painter’s death, Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth), son of a postmaster, sets out to the last hometown of Van Gogh on a journey to deliver the last letter Vincent sent to his brother Theo. As he gets the news that Theo also passed away, his journey turns into an investigation into Vincent’s death, and what really happened during his last days. We are taken on a mesmerizing journey of Van Gogh’s last days, where even the flash back scenes are painted in monochrome oil paint. The film was put together with 65 000 oil paintings by over a 100 artists. To give further insight to the level of detail of this film, it is said that before the paintings were made, the whole movie was shot as a live action film first. Every character was also a direct depiction of Van Gogh’s own paintings of the people that he met during his life.

For those who know Vincent’s story and for those who don’t, this is a captivating and enthralling story and overall cinematic experience. Credit should not only be given to the artists, filmmakers and painters who put the film together, but also to composer Clint Mansell for his perfectly crafted and atmospheric score to further convey the tragic story and right emotions at the right time. As with Van Gogh’s paintings, Mansell creates a perfect combination between melancholy and joy.

Loving Vincent

As an “artist” myself, and I’m sure I won’t be the only one, the film resonated deeply with me on a personal level and I would definitely recommend this film to all art students. It is about more than just Van Gogh’s story, but an examination into one of the world’s most controversial painters, with the biggest question the film asks: was his death really suicide? Another factor the filmmakers got right was to predominantly show us the world through Vincent’s eyes and to give us a little bit of insight into his head. It is important to know that this is not a full biography of Van Gogh’s life, but limited to only the final days of his life and his death. Maybe it is just this — the concentration of only this final chapter of his life — that makes the film work so perfectly. The tone, much like Van Gogh’s work, is somber and melancholic, contrasting with the rich and vibrant colours that Van Gogh used in his own paintings.

Loving Vincent is a work of art in itself. A true tragedy of one of the greatest artist ever to have lived. A celebration and remembarence of Van Gogh’s work, his life and his death. A definite must see for everyone — those fascinated, appreciative and intriqued by his life and work, and those who are not. I’m sure old Vincent would have been proud and honored to see this masterpiece.


Loving Vincent is directed by Dorota Kobiela and High Welchman, and it stars Robert Gulaczyk, Douglas Booth, Jerome Flynn, Saoirse Ronan, Helen McCrory, Chris O’Dowd, John Sessions, Eleanor Tomlinson, and Aidan Turner. It’s in SA cinemas from 23 February 2018.

Willem van den Heever

Willem is a cinephile, so naturally a bit of a film critic. He’s been called a Neil Blomkamp fan and to grow the fuck up for criticizing an Alien film. He makes films (short ones for now), take photos and sometimes write about those films he hopes to make one day.