This World Was Never Meant for Something as Beautiful as Vincent

Watching Loving Vincent is a completely new perceptual engagement in the discipline of the arts. You step into the canvas by the Dutch Post-Impressionist painter, who is among the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art, and you follow an unprecedented visual narrative.

This film, written and directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, is the world’s first fully painted feature. Every single frame of the 65,000 that compose the film, was hand-painted by the exceptional artistic crew made up of 125 professional oil-painters who travelled from all around the globe to be part of this unique coproduction between Poland’s BreakThru Films & UK’s Trademark Films.

If we think of the way virtual reality is conquering the cinematic field, oil-painting animation should be the next big thing, as it coalesces art techniques, that have marked history, with the ever evolving medium of the silver screen. A live-action cast, that effectively resembles the characters of Van Gogh’s pantheon, is literally transformed into a kinesthetic work of art. Douglas Booth, Eleanor Tomlinson, Jerome Flynn, Saoirse Ronan, Chris O’Dowd, John Sessions, Aidan Turner, Helen McCrory, Robert Gulaczyk, abandon their fleshly forms to become the brushstroke images of Armand Roulin, Adeline Ravoux, Doctor Gachet, Marguerite Gachet, Postman Joseph Roulin, Vincent’s paint supplier Pere Tanguy, the Boatman from the painting Bank of the Oise at Auvers, Louise Chevalier (the house-keeper to Doctor Gachet), and the title character Vincent van Gogh.

The first feature film to be painted on canvas brings van Gogh’s landscapes, still lifes, portraits and self-portraits into being, exploring the complicated existence and controversial death of one of history’s most celebrated artists. The story is set in France, in the summer of 1891. A young man, Armand Roulin, is given a letter by his father to deliver to Paris. It has to be handed to Theo van Gogh, the brother of the painter who cut off his ear and allegedly committed suicide at 37, after years of mental illness and poverty.

The pictorial Odyssey of the letter’s journey, with its messenger, fully capture how the Post-Impressionists created an unforgettable vision of the world. They were changing art and remaking the very nature of perception, revolutionizing the way we saw the world. Modernist art broke the laws of painting in order to reveal the laws of seeing. Loving Vincent, develops in movement how sight is a constructive process. Just like Cézanne, van Gogh proved to us, before science did, that reality is not out there waiting to be witnessed, it is made by the mind.

The Gestalt Psychologists of the early twentieth century were the first scientists to confront the illusions of form, that Post-Impressionists so eloquently manipulated. Modern neuroscientific studies of the visual cortex further confirmed that sight transcends visual sensations. Dorota Kobiela’s and Hugh Welchman’s oil-painted love letter to the ill-fated life of a genius, enhances the posthumous fame of Vincent van Gogh and the insight he bequeathed to the world. Sight is like art. What we see is not real. It has been bent to fit our canvas, which is the brain. When we open our eyes, we enter into an illusionary world, a scene broken apart by the retina and re-created by the cortex. Just as a painter interprets a picture, we interpret our sensations. Seeing is imagining. And what could be  better than a factory of imagination (cinema) to remind us all?