Starring: Douglas Booth, Jerome Flynn, Robert Gulaczyk
Director: Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman
Running Time: 94 mins
Loving Vincent is a British/Polish film about a man who arrives in the last hometown of painter Vincent van Gogh to deliver a letter, but becomes engrossed by the mysterious circumstances surrouding van Gogh’s death.
Above all, this film is an absolute triumph when it comes to its incredibly unique and visually stellar style, taking genuine hand-painted scenes and animating them to make a full film. However, it’s more than just a pretty picture, as the film offers an intriguing noir-esque crime story too, bringing some very interesting insight into the life of van Gogh, and although it may not manage to shine on a deeply dramatic level, it’s still a very strong film throughout.
However, we have to start with the visuals here, which are pretty unbelievable. Although it’s not a jawdroppingly innovative visual style, it’s a very unique and very pretty one from start to finish, and I can’t possibly imagine how long it could have taken for this team of over 100 artists to actually paint every frame of a feature-length movie.
If you’ve seen A Scanner Darkly, you’ll be familiar with the concept here, which involves shooting actors on set first with a camera, and then going over the images with a paintbrush. However, unlike A Scanner Darkly, whose animation style was more annoying and distracting than anything, Loving Vincent uses its unique animation to a really effective end.
The film is painted in the style of van Gogh’s paintings, adding an extra level of depth and intimacy with the story at hand right from the get go, not to mention the fact that they’re absolutely beautiful to look at, even for someone with absolutely no fine art expertise at all like me. There’s something about the painting style that works really well in tandem with the directors’ intended atmosphere, a slightly dreamlike and abstract vibe running throughout the movie that’s as unsettling in the crime story as it is soothing in the drama, all of which proves that the animation is more than just a gimmick added to the movie.
But what’s even better is that the film has a real story to it as well. I’m not entirely sure how true to life the plot here is, but it’s more than just a biography of van Gogh, rather an intriguing and incisive look into his life in general, as well as his most infamous moment: his death.
The story takes place a year after van Gogh’s death, as a man comes to his former hometown and finds himself engrossed by the story of how the painter died. Throughout, our lead, played by Douglas Booth, strolls around the small French village in search of answers from a plethora of characters, all of whom give accounts of both how van Gogh was in the past, and how they relate to the events surrounding his death.
In that, the film feels rather like an old film-noir, with one lead moving swiftly throughout a location interviewing numerous ‘suspects’ and witnesses, whose accounts build a vivid picture of the events in the past, something that I was really impressed and grabbed by throughout.
I still feel as if there are elements of the film that are lacking in dramatic intensity and depth, as although it offers up an interesting crime mystery for you to follow along with, when it’s looking at some of the darker elements of van Gogh’s life, it doesn’t manage to hit you as hard as is clearly intended, and that’s why I felt that the film was a little lacking in some regards.
The score by Clint Mansell is excellent, exaggerating the dreamy atmosphere of the whole movie, and fitting perfectly with the visual style and calm pacing as well. Again, it’s not a dramatically intense score, and as such doesn’t help to add drama to some parts of the story, but it is unsettling enough at times to make the mystery side of the story even more riveting, and dreamlike enough to make the rest of the film really pleasant.
Overall, I really liked Loving Vincent. It’s got some major issues when it comes to delivering a more dramatically and emotionally intriguing story, but as a crime mystery, it’s very interesting throughout, not to mention the infectious atmosphere delivered expertly by directors Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, and of course the stunning visuals, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.5.