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London Film Festival Review: Loving Vincent – “Utterly magnificent”

When I was first sent the information for Loving Vincent, the world’s first fully painted film, I knew I’d be impressed – even if the film had no real plot. What I didn’t realise was how completely moved I would be watching this incredibly ambitious film come to life.

The story follows one man, a postmaster’s son, sent by his father to deliver a letter from the late Vincent to his brother. In his search to figure out what to do with the letter in question, the man meets numerous people who knew Van Gogh in one way or another. In this way, we get different people’s accounts of the artist’s final weeks before his death. And we get this through his own paintings and the people within them.

With an impressive cast that includes Douglas Booth, Saoirse Ronan, Chris O’Dowd, Aidan Turner, Eleanor Tomlinson and Helen McCrory, the film is unlike anything I’ve seen before. The cast filmed it like any other film and the artistry was added after. Their performances are there to be enjoyed: emotive and subtle and entirely compelling, whether they are on screen for one brief scene or a much larger portion of the story.

LOVING VINCENT is the world’s first fully painted film, with every one of the 65,000 frames of the film an oil-painting hand-painted by 125 professional oil-painters. LOVING VINCENT was first shot as a live action film with actors, and then hand-painted over frame-by-frame in oils. The final effect is an interaction of the performance of the actors playing Vincent’s famous portraits, and the performance of the painting animators, bringing these characters into the medium of paint.

With the painting element added, the use of Van Gogh’s paintings and style makes the whole thing feel very dreamy. Yet the very real debate about mental health and depression – or ‘melancholia’ as it is referred to by the doctor – keep it firmly grounded in the life of this incredible man, and his legacy.

The boldness of this film – and the patience that must have been required to pull it off – is reflected in the final work, a work that is a true testament to the dedication and care taken by filmmakers Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman and the many many artists who worked on it.

Jaw-dropping in scope, Loving Vincent could easily have just rested on the visually impressive. That in itself would have been enough to amaze audiences. However, by piecing together different accounts about Van Gogh himself, it feels like we have not only witnessed his work come to life but also somehow seen just a small part of who this complex and troubled man really was.

Loving Vincent also has a beautiful score by Clint Mansell who understands the work being done and lets his music enhance rather than overpower it.

Thanks to the incredible work by the artists, a still shot of one of Van Gogh’s infamous paintings is there one moment and then alive the next. The film is as alive with colour and life as his paintings have been for so long to his many, many fans.

From the quiet and intimate indoor settings to the sweeping landscapes and that gorgeous night sky, Loving Vincent is more than just a film. It’s an immersive experience made to awaken the senses. This is cinema at its most ambitious: moving, impressive and utterly magnificent.

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  1. As one of the 125 painters who worked on the film I want to say thank you for the heartfelt review. It was absolutely the best adventure of my life in art. The most gruelling and emotionally driven labour of love for all who worked on the film. I was hooked from the first glimpse of the project. I have never felt so sure about anything in my life. I knew it would be a sensational, history making film event!

    • Hi Val,

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. Sounds like it was an incredible project to be involved with.

      Amanda did a cracking review and I cannot wait to see the film.

      • Surprisingly I still have not seen the film on the big screen. My first viewing will be at TIFF members preview on October 4th in Toronto.

  2. I saw this film too and agree completely – a work of art and such a magical experience to watch, a genuine joy! Great review 🙂

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