I wouldn’t say I grew up as an art enthusiast, I was encouraged in that direction by my art-enthusiastic family and all the galleries they have taken me to. Not that I complained, but it wouldn’t have been my first choice for a Saturday afternoon activity. Nonetheless, it has helped me develop an appreciation for art, which, I think, is something that the more you know about, the more you can appreciate. It’s like how jazz music became a lot more interesting to me when I discovered it’s comprised mostly of improvisation. The same goes for visual art. Oil paintings become more impressive when you consider the science behind mixing the colours.
When I first heard about the film, Loving Vincent, I thought it seemed too good to be true. You can imagine my excitement when I found out that not only was it real, but it was also already playing in theatres. Naturally, I had to go see it. The film, as suggested by the title, honours the artwork of Vincent Van Gogh. Although this is not the title’s context within the film, it works perfectly with a double meaning. The film is evidently reverent to his art work. Throughout the movie, Van Gogh’s paintings are worked into the scenes, including some of his most famous works such as Starry Night Over the Rhône, Café Terrace at Night, and Starry Night. Whether the scene was inspired directly from one of his paintings, or was extrapolated upon to add the actions of the characters and movement of the plot, it always stayed true to Van Gogh’s brush stroke style and unique use of colour.
The film also impressed upon the viewer Van Gogh’s talent as an artist. This was done in a subtle way. Rather than telling us, the movie showed us, breaking the fourth wall in a tasteful way. During the movie, the purpose of the dialogue was not to rhapsodize about Van Gogh’s talent as an artist. The focus was placed on the mysteries surrounding the artist’s death. The way they expressed his talent was by choosing to put the effort into making this movie. A group of artists would not have created 65,000 separate oil on canvas paintings based upon Van Gogh’s originals had he not been a phenomenal artist. While the characters explore his life, his past, and his death, the film itself is telling us how amazing of an artist he was. The tragedy of the film is that although we can revere Van Gogh today, while he was alive he only ever sold one piece of work (having painted approximately 800 throughout his lifetime).
A common complaint about the film is that the plot is very slow moving, and this is something that I would agree with. Had it been a live-action film, I would have found the pace of the movie a bit too slow and might have lost interest. That being said, since it’s a film that is completely animated by oil on canvas, this puts it in a completely different boat. The plot is slowed down for the sake of enjoying the artistry. The transitions from scene to scene involve extraordinary flow of colour, and the field of vision moves slower to allow the audience the chance to take in and appreciate the artwork. Time is taken to highlight small details that one would not expect in a live-action movie because they aren’t things that add to the plot. Steam rising from coffee, the reflection of stars on water. These are things that we are all familiar with in real life, but watching this movie gives us a new set of eyes. We are given the chance to see the world, interpret nature and colour, as Van Gogh himself.
In the end, for art to be successful, it has to leave you with something. Whether this is a feeling, a mood, or new ideas and thoughts, it needs to leave an impact. For me, the film did this in multiple ways. It was very thought-provoking, especially because the conclusion is left slightly open-ended. Despite the melancholy that Loving Vincent evokes, there is also a feeling of closure, provided generously by the mirroring of the opening and closing scenes. By beginning and ending the film with the two Starry Night paintings, the film gives the audience closure, even though the plot cannot quite say the same. In the end, I would definitely recommend this film. Even if action and fast moving plots are your prefered genre of movie, Loving Vincent is worth the watch, simply because it is an incredible piece of artistry, and easily the most unique film I’ve seen.