From the first moments of Loving Vincent, eyes are drawn to the dragging movements of a cup to a mouth or a lingering shadow, a figure shuffling down the street–blurred evidence of a movement on a painting. The revolutionary film is the first and only of it’s kind: 65,000 frames painted by 125 trained painters over the project’s six years of production to create a living work detailing Vincent Van Gogh’s tragic death, the people he left behind and the pieces of him that they attempt to retrieve after he is gone.
The unique biopic analyzes the life of the artist through the eyes of those who knew him for a short time, almost taking on the role of a murder mystery. It’s a refreshing take on the genre, following along with the main character, Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth) as he wanders around Arles, France to deliver a posthumous letter from the artist to his brother, trying to unravel Van Gogh’s character, his interpersonal struggles and the reasoning behind his alleged suicide along the way. Through the fascinating blend in the the innovation of the film team and the recognizable works of Van Gogh, the well-known faces and scenes of paintings like “Bedroom in Arles”, “Church at Auvers,” “Portrait of Dr. Gachet” and “Adeline Ravoux” introduce characters and scenes with respect to the original artwork but detail the faces of the actors who lent their voices and likenesses.
Loving Vincent masters feats that only a fully-painted film could produce. Artistic transitions blend night and day, rain casts grey blobs across the sky and transitioning lines of yellows and oranges rotate around sources of light to demonstrate the reach of the sun or a candle on a table. The stark contrast of black and white realism in scenes from the artist’s memory versus Van Gogh’s bright stylistic approach in the central storyline help differentiate between the past and present and offer another perspective: the grey of Van Gogh’s world against the vibrant art he created.
The paintings are executed with scrutiny and detail from the contrasted highlights on a character’s face to the movement of a single blade of grass. In close ups, the detailing of hands, contorted facial expressions, swirling skies and glittering stars are mesmerizing. This is a thrilling film, not only in the development of it’s story but in the very fact that it came to be.
Loving Vincent is playing at the Spectrum Theater in Albany through Nov. 9 Showtimes: 12:55, 4:10 and 7:25 PM