For the first time in cinematic history, a movie has been created exclusively using handmade paintings. The duo behind the film drew their inspiration from more than 120 works by Vincent van Gogh to retrace the incredible and misunderstood artist’s extraordinary life. The film will be out in New York on September 22, in Los Angeles on September 29, and nationally on October 6.
Breathing life into Van Gogh’s paintings was the formidable challenge taken on by young Polish director Dorota Kobiela and British producer Hugh Welchman. The duo animated a host of oil paintings created in the style of the Dutch master to portray the final weeks of the painter’s life in Auvers-sur-Oise in the Paris region, where he was staying after his time in the south of France.
“This movie is something of an investigation into the life and controversial death of Vincent van Gogh told through his paintings and their subjects. As we constructed the plot, we drew inspiration from the wealth of letters he exchanged with his family,” says Dorota Kobiela. “His life’s work is the movie’s real main character.”
The film begins in the summer of 1891, one year after the artist’s suicide. Armand Roulin is asked by his father, the postman Joseph Roulin (who was very close with the painter, and one of his favorite models) to deliver a posthumous letter to Van Gogh’s brother Théo. Having never approved of his father’s friendship with the artist, Armand is less than happy with his task. Upon arriving in Paris, Van Gogh’s brother is nowhere to be found. The young man finally learns that Théo was devastated by the death of his older brother, and only lived for a few months after his suicide. Armand realizes he had judged the painter too quickly, and travels to Auvers-sur-Oise to try to shed light on the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death…
The movie was first filmed with actual shots of the real-life actors. These images were then used as a basis for the animating team (composed of some 100 artists recruited all over Europe and trained specifically for the film), who painted directly onto the rushes while trying to remain as faithful as possible to Van Gogh’s technique and style. The painters used the same canvas for each shot, modifying it imperceptibly from one take to another. Each finished piece was then edited using a computer to smooth out the transitions. This colossal work took four years to produce the 62,450 images that make up the finished movie. The start and end of each shot is the exact copy of one of Van Gogh’s works. A total of 94 paintings were fully reproduced, and 31 were partially recreated.
The result is an example of visual splendor in which some of the world’s most renowned paintings are animated, such as The Starry Night, Portrait of Dr. Gachet, Wheatfield with Crows, and The Night Café. While the storyline is very classic, and the screenplay occasionally a little too educational, audiences certainly won’t be disappointed. Loving Vincent can be enjoyed like a gigantic painting, bursting with colors, and painted and forged continuously before the astounded viewers. Magical!
Watch the trailer: