By Tracy Wang
Now playing in cinemas across the nation, ‘Loving Vincent’ narrates the life and death of Vincent Van Gogh. The film is the first fully painted animated one, in which a team of 115 painters were recruited to paint the 65,000 frames with the same technique as Van Gogh. The narrative follows Armand Roulin’s quest in delivering Van Gogh’s newly-found letter to his brother, Theo Van Gogh; with mystery of his death, and the tangled relationship network forever at the forefront of the narrative, ‘Loving Vincent’ is both a visual feast for art lovers and everyone else, and a mystery story filled with themes such as mental disorder, suicide and bullying.
The film opens with a short narration from Van Gogh, played beautifully by Robert Gulaczyk, and it soon jumps to a scene in the bar in which postman Roulin asks his son, Armand Roulin, to deliver a letter of Van Gogh to his brother. At first unwilling, Armand soon becomes intrigued in finding out what exactly happened to Van Gogh when he died. After finding out that Theo is dead as well, he arrives at a village to look for a Dr. Gachet who once was close to Van Gogh. Because he heard many different versions or stories about his suspicious and mysterious death, he begins the quest to find the truth, and a person whom he could hand Van Gogh’s unsent letter.
As the first fully painted animated film, ‘Loving Vincent’ can be said to be of the pioneer in this genre, and the painted animation runs so smoothly and vividly that all audiences can easily catch the spirits of the actors and actresses behind these paintings. Many little details, such as the twinkling stars, the water in the basin, the coffee in a cup, assume the movements of those in reality. Besides the physical objects, the characters are painted and portrayed in an equally vivid manner. When Marguerite Gachet (Saoirse Ronan), daughter of Dr. Gachet, finally opens up about her relationship and observation of Van Gogh, the faraway look in her eyes and the lingering tears perfectly deliver a sombre, wistful tone and environment.
Throughout the film, the black and white coloring of the past, and the colorful palette of Roulin’s quest help demonstrate how Van Gogh’s paintings seem to assume the most liveliness and richness. By watching many of his famous paintings come alive in motion, we are led down a path that Van Gogh walked, and lived, and with the introduction to his acquaintances and friends, we are ever so close to the artist and his struggles in being loved and accepted by a world that is all too ready to shut him out.
Overall, the film satisfies us both visually and emotionally. Though the mystery of his death drives the narrative, his passion for art, beauty, and his commitment in using his paintings to show the world his life, love and passion, are in truth the main drivers of this film. When Armand Roulin is handed a Van Gogh’s letter just when he was starting his painting journey, the film has indeed transcended the mystery genre and the life story of Van Gogh, and become a loving and personal message from Van Gogh. As the letter is read, we too listen/read closely, savor his positive and determined spirit, and realize that ‘Loving Vincent’ is Van Gogh’s letter to us all, to tell us how even if we can seem to be insignificant to this busy and crowded world, we can always show it our greatness and significance with our art, words and any passion we have.