The impressive film stands as a beautiful testament to Vincent Von Gogh and is playing all week at the Circle Cinema.
“Loving Vincent” tells the story of Vincent Van Gogh’s life, and, more notably, his death. The story is told through the eyes of Armand Roulin, a hot-tempered, woefully uncharismatic young man who reluctantly goes to Auvers to deliver a letter from the late Vincent to Vincent’s brother, Theo.
The visual endeavor of this film was monumental. With over 65,000 frames, each hand painted with oils, by a team of merely 125 artists and show casing 120 of Van Gogh’s more prominent pieces — this film succeeds with flying colors. Not only is each frame beautiful, but they all move together in a whimsically mesmerizing way, if you could live in a Van Gogh painting I believe it would feel exactly how watching this movie did.
However, as it is in many monumentally beautiful films (“Avatar,” 2009, comes to mind), what it makes up for in beauty, it most definitely lacks in substance.
We follow around Armand Roulin for the majority of the film. Armand was tasked by his father, the postman, to deliver the letter, though stubbornly reluctant, he is basically dragged in a drunken stupor to the train station by his father. However once in the city, he is somehow overcome with the desire to uncover the truth behind Van Gogh’s life and more importantly his final days.
He goes around town questioning characters, who are people from Van Gogh’s portraits, about the death film-sleuth style. The driving point behind Armand’s questions is whether Van Gogh committed suicide or if he was murdered. After each character has their say, ultimately, the decision is left to the viewer about what really happened those final few days of Van Gogh’s.
The most compelling parts of the film are the flashbacks. Painted in black and white they tell the story through Van Gogh’s own eyes and interactions with the characters we meet along the way. These segments of the film stand out. They’re raw, heart-wrenching snippets where the viewer is able to see the world through Van Gogh’s eyes, to see his kindness and understanding, as well as his darkness, that is prevalent throughout his letters to his brother.
Van Gogh’s paintings are some of the most recognizable pieces of art in the world. He is known for his trademark haphazard swirling brush strokes, but he is known for his torment too. His iconic image is always coupled with stories of his deep depression, stories like how he cut off his ear and gave it to a prostitute.
One of the most notable scenes that displays Van Gogh’s tenderness is a short scene where a little kid from town climbs into Van Gogh’s lap and they draw a chicken together. The scene is short, playful and sweet. It tells much more of Van Gogh’s life than the speculation about his torment and death does. And, in the film as a whole, it is entirely more moving than the pretend-detective-Armand’s scenes are.
Another beautifully captivating scene comes after Vincent’s fight with his close friend and doctor, who reveals to Van Gogh a misfortune his younger brother Theo is enduring. After the fight, the scene follows Van Gogh outside, he walks through an open doorway, covered in flowers and vines and stands there, staring out against the meadow. We know in this scene Van Gogh is carrying great burden. Perhaps it is where he decides to end his life. It is short, yet deeply tantalizing in a fearlessly melancholic way. Which suits Van Gogh’s whole father of the tortured artist deal.
The film ends with a quote from one of Van Gogh’s letters, it reads:
“Who am I in the eyes of most people. A nobody, a non-entity, an unpleasant person.
“Someone who has not, and never will have, any position in society, in short the lowest of the low.
“Well then, even if that was all absolutely true, one day I would like show by my work, what this non-entity has in his heart”