Loving Vincent: Citizen van Gogh
by Ola Salwa
- Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman explore the life and death of the famous post-impressionist through hand-painted animation
When it comes to biopics, expressions like “the director painted a unique portrait” instantly spring to the mind of a reviewer. In the case of Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman’s debut film, this cliché is imbued with an unexpectedly literal meaning. Loving Vincent [+see also:
interview: Dorota Kobiela
film profile]is the first fully hand-painted animation, which was prepared by a team of 125 professional oil-painters, who created 65,000 frames. The directors created a special “modelling” session for some of those canvases by directing the live-action scenes. But the film is much more than a technical curio. Heavily inspired by one of the cinema classics, Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, Loving Vincent offers a vivid and meandering journey through the world of van Gogh.
It’s the summer of 1891, one year after the painter’s death. Young Armand Roulin, whose postman father was one of Vincent’s closest friends, is entrusted with a mission to deliver a letter that the late Vincent wrote to his brother, Theo. Considering the tragic circumstances surrounding the artist’s death, this note may well be more than just a few words scribbled in a hurry. Armand is reluctant at first, but as he meets people who knew van Gogh – namely, two ladies, Adeline Ravoux and Marguerite Gachet – he gets lured into the world of a tortured artist whose love of the world was second only to his self-doubt. As a bona fide detective, Roulin starts questioning the theory that Vincent took his own life. Those who saw Welles’ classic already know the results of that investigation…
Kobiela and Welchman, who studied van Gogh’s paintings and letters, invite the audience not only to take a deeper look at his struggle as an artist, but also to explore the nature of creativity. They ask an eternally topical question: why are some people (like Vincent) easily able to touch the hearts and minds of others with their works, while other people (such as Doctor Gachet) can never come anywhere close to that?
The directorial duo offers full immersion into van Gogh’s world by using his iconic paintings and his signature style. The emotional journey is helped along by Clint Mansell’s musical score and some great performance by the actors, who “modelled” as characters from van Gogh’s paintings. If their faces seem familiar, it’s because they are. The cast includes Saoirse Ronan (Atonement [+see also:
film profile], Brooklyn [+see also:
film profile]), Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids), Helen McCrory (Harry Potter, Skyfall [+see also:
film profile]), Douglas Booth (Noah, Jupiter Ascending)and Jerome Flynn (Game of Thrones). Van Gogh himself is played by a Polish newcomer, Robert Gulaczyk.
Loving Vincent is a Polish-British co-production, produced by Łódź-based BreakThru Films and co-produced by Trademark Films. The international sales are being handled by Cinema Management Group. The world premiere of Loving Vincent took place at the Annecy Film Festival, where it won an Audience Award, and during the Polish Film Festival in Gdynia, the producers made it known that the filmwas competing for an Oscar nomination in the Best Animated Feature Film category.
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