Loving Vincent is the first fully painted animated feature film, and probably many of you have seen it. During my recent holidays, I had the opportunity to watch the movie with some friends in a Sofia cinema.
The story is of course about the painter Vincent van Gogh and the circumstances of his death, allegedly by a self-inflicted gunshot, but possibly that is not the whole truth, as the story of the film implies. A young man, Armand, the son of postman Roulin (who was a friend of the painter) is trying to deliver a letter of Vincent after his death and is meeting several people who were close to the artist in the last weeks and months of his life. He learns more about Vincent and about his relationship with these people as well as with his brother Theo, although the mystery regarding the exact circumstances of his death remains unresolved.
Almost everyone I know and who saw the movie, and also the vast majority of reviews were raving about this film. Especially the visual effects of Loving Vincent are rather unique: more than 65,000 frames (based on van Gogh’s paintings) were painted by hand by a team of more than 120 illustrators; so when you watch the movie, you have in the majority of scenes the impression that you are actually within a van Gogh painting.
Of course, I was impressed by these visual effects, but it had an overwhelming feeling for me; and after 20 minutes, I had the impression that now it is enough already – the effect was wearing off rather quickly. Also the story was not at all convincing; the plot was rather flat and what different characters in the film say is frequently based on speculation rather than on historical facts. Van Gogh’s life is very well documented, not only because of the number of letters he was exchanging with his brother Theo, and in which he was confiding his very personal convictions, experiences, hopes and disappointments. Why these letters and other remaining documents and witnesses were not used in a more careful way, is beyond me – or was the aim of the film to spread a murder conspiracy for which there is no evidence at all, just to make the story more interesting? The Gauguin episode is just briefly mentioned at the beginning of the movie although it is central to the final crisis in the life of the artist, and a few other things seem not to fit at all to the life and death of the real van Gogh as well.
The main point for me however for my dislike of this movie is something else. Let’s face it, but Loving Vincent is just terrible, for me almost unbearable, kitsch. A great artist and his suffering is being trivialized, Vincent van Gogh is killed again and turned into a pop art zombie; now we don’t have only the Gustav Klimt porcelain sets, the Andy Warhol bed covers and pillows, but also another kitschy movie as part of the “Vincent industry” (to which we owe already many similar movies, songs, etc.).
The film is very clever in overwhelming its spectators with visual effects. But the impressive effects don’t make for a good movie in my opinion.
Loving Vincent, Poland/United Kingdom 2017, 95 minutes; Directors: Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman; Written by: Hugh Welchman, Ivan Mactaggart, Sean Bobbitt; Starring: Robert Gulaczyk, Douglas Booth, Jerome Flynn, Saoirse Ronan, Helen McCrory, et al.
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