Loving Vincent has just made cinematic history. As the first film that’s been hand-painted from start to finish, it has been described by many critics as a modern masterpiece. After its UK release last month, countless reviews have praised its artistry, with over 100 different painters imitating Van Gogh’s work with impressive precision. Yet, whilst its production technique is incredible, with each painted scene transition leaving me breathless, it’s the story behind the artist that’s interested me the most.
Vincent Van Gogh, despite his artistic genius, will be remembered by many as the painter who cut off his ear in a fit of anguish. But this act, not entirely surprising to those who knew him, was a mere insight into his crippling mental health. He was a tortured soul, who suffered from frequent bouts of depression and debilitating episodes of anxiety. So strong was his troubled condition, that he spent a year in a French mental asylum where he composed his most famous painting – ‘Starry Night’.
The producers of the film could have easily followed the life of Van Gogh, throughout his trials and tribulations until his death in 1890. However, they chose a gloomier route, focusing the plot posthumously around Van Gogh’s mental illness, and untangling events that may have driven him to suicide. The narrative heavily explores this mental illness theme, and more interestingly, the enduring stigma attached to it. So strong is this stigma, that our protagonist – Armand Roulin – becomes obsessed with unravelling the truth behind his alleged suicide. More notably, he continually challenges negative portrayals of Van Gogh’s demise encountered throughout his journey, a poignant act of preserving his genius work rather than his tortured soul.
Loving Vincent is worth watching solely for the extraordinary visuals and it’s wonderful artistic production. But if you want to really understand who ‘The Father of Modern Painting’ was, and the influence behind his legendary artwork, it’s a must-see.
Watch the trailer here