“Loving Vincent” is a film written and directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman and is a story exploring the circumstances of Vincent Van Gogh’s death. The story picks up a year after his death in Arles, where a local Postman named Roulin (played by Chris O’Dowd) asks his son Armand (played by Douglas Booth) to personally deliver Vincent Van Gogh’s last letter to his brother Théo. Armand is very reluctant at first as he did not like Vincent, and recalls the distressing incident where Vincent cut his ear off and gifted it to a prostitute. Roulin acknowledges that Vincent had mental health issues, but blames this on the people of Arles, who ostracized him and drove him away. He has affection for Vincent, and sees his son delivering the letter as a form of accomplishing his dying last request.
To please his father, Armand ends up agreeing to deliver the letter to Théo, but when he visits Père Tanguy he learns that Théo has sadly died. Depressed and suffering from Syphillis, Théo’s health deteriorated rapidly after his brother’s death. Père Tanguy mentions Dr Gachet, a doctor who housed Vincent after his return from a mental asylum, and tells him that he might have Théo’s widow’s address. Armand decides to travel to Auvers-Sur-Oise to meet Dr Gachet, and unbeknownst to him that he is about to embark on a quasi-murder mystery.
While truly fascinating, the most awe-inspiring aspect of this film is that every one of the film’s 65,000 frames was painted by a team of 100 oil painters on canvas. Indeed, the film was created using the same technique as Vincent Van Gogh and the result is truly mesmerising. We are taken on a spellbinding journey with Armand, as he struggles to understand what happened to Vincent, and along the way we meet actual characters that have appeared in Vincent’s paintings (Armand, Roulin, Père Tanguy, Docteur Gachet, Marguerite…etc!). The scenes with these characters are also integrated with paintings the viewer will recognise, such as Starry Night. As a fan of some of Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings, it was amazing to see his paintings come to life.
All in all, I would say that this film was very moving: I realised that I actually didn’t know much about Vincent Van Gogh’s life beyond his paintings. I was surprised and disheartened to learn that he had tried so hard to be an accomplished painter, but that he had only sold one painting in his lifetime. I was also saddened that he had been so misunderstood and shunned by his community, and that certain individuals had even tormented him. Although unfair it may be, as Marguerite pointedly says at the end of the movie, the most important thing is not to theorise about the circumstances surrounding Vincent’s death but to celebrate his life and his paintings.