Loving Vincent

Stop motion animation is one of the most time consuming filmmaking processes around as it painstakingly involves taking a picture and then repositioning the set for every individual frame in the movie. By combining the thousands of pictures together, filmmakers are able to create the illusion of movement. Loving Vincent does the exact same thing but with paintings in what they’re calling the first fully painted animated film. What may sound like a gimmick turns out to be an absolutely gorgeous work of art and a loving tribute to Vincent van Gogh.


Loving Vincent chronicles the final moments of the painter as he succumbs to a gunshot wound to the chest and the investigation that follows. The majority of the film is seen through the eyes of detective Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth) as he speaks with the people closest to van Gogh in order to get a better understanding of what kind of person he was so he can better understand his death. Much like the artist’s portfolio, the film is a collection of stories that are pieced together to paint a picture of the man behind the canvas.


The film itself is as gorgeous as the works of van Gogh. Its style of animated paintings is unlike any other film I’ve seen. I initially thought the filmmakers filmed the movie and then had artists paint over each individual frame ala something similar to the animated cels of A Scanner Darkly, but it turned out to be way more impressive than that. Essentially they would film the actors, whether on green screen or hand-painted background and then paint each frame on a single canvas, using the film only as a reference guide. Once a frame was finished, they would take a picture and then move to the next frame on the same canvas, painting over the previous one and repeating the process until the scene was completed.


The end result of this process is a stunning collection of paintings that breathe a whole new life into the film. You can see each brushstroke as the film moves from frame to frame. Because each scene is comprised of layers on top of layers of paint, you can literally see how each one evolved from one frame to the next. You see what moves, what changes, what gets just a smidge of new color or just another stroke. Together they all tell this wonderful story about one of the world’s most famous painters, but even individually they’re telling their own mini-story.


In the end, we’re left with 65,000 frames comprising 853 shots to create Loving Vincent. Every single one of them is a fitting tribute to Vincent van Gogh. Some scenes even brilliantly use van Gogh’s paintings as the backdrop for the characters. At one point Armand Roulin is speaking with Lt Milliet (Robin Hodges) in The Night Cafe, for instance. After thinking you’ve seen it all before, it’s interesting to see all these paintings come to life in a new way.


Loving Vincent couldn’t have a better and more fitting title. The film is a love letter to Vincent van Gogh and pays tribute to him through its story and unique style. When every frame is its own beautiful work of art, the end result is a visual masterpiece van Gogh would be proud of.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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