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BFI LFF 2017 – Loving Vincent (2017)

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It took filmmakers Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman more than seven years to create this feature. Comprising over 65,000 individual oil paintings created by a team of 115 artists, the result is truly unique – the world’s first fully painted animated film.

Taking place a year after Van Gogh’s suicide, Loving Vincent follows Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth), a young man who is entrusted to deliver a letter from the late artist to his brother Theo. After learning that Theo has also passed away, Armand decides to travel to the small village of Arles to learn more about Van Gogh and begins to question the truth behind his death.

There is a line in Loving Vincent that nicely surmises its premise: ‘You want to know so much about his death, but what do you know of his life?’ In one line, it highlights a blatant issue about the plot. While Roulin struggles to uncover the truth, the film provides very little insight behind the painter and the ending comes across as an anti-climax, leaving a lot of questions unanswered, due to the supporting characters, ranging from the religious Louise Chevalier (Helen McCrory) to the gossiping Adeline Ravoux (Eleanor Tomlinson), planting seeds of doubt regarding Van Gogh’s sanity.

However, this is practically overlooked due to Loving Vincent‘s simply staggering animation. Innovatively incorporating certain Van Gogh’s works as part of the narrative, the audience essentially becomes part of his brightly coloured world. The actors’ performances are beautifully captured as each facial expression is creatively painted, highlighting a twist on motion capture using a traditional form of art.

The numerous paint strokes dominating the screen reflect the film’s somewhat rustic production, yet the amount of detail in each frame is staggering. The directors also cleverly highlight the intricacy of the black-and-white flashbacks before Van Gogh’s death, possibly symbolising the bleak time of his life, while the vivid technicolour scenes of the present posthumously reaffirm Van Gogh’s creativity.

Overall, Loving Vincent comes across as a homage to the artist, and complemented by Clint Mansell’s score, it is truly beguiling.

Director: Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman
Stars: Douglas Booth, Chris O’Dowd, Jerome Flynn, Saoirse Ronan, Eleanor Tomlinson, Helen McCrory
Runtime: 91 minutes
Country: UK

Film Rating: ★★★★☆

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