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Van Gogh and the first animated oil film

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Van Gogh and the first animated oil film
Frames from the movie ‘Loving Vincent’
  • Each of the 65,000 ‘frames’ that make up ‘Loving Vincent’ belongs to paintings created by 125 artists in the style of the Dutch genius
  • Written and directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, it arrives at the movies on Friday

The story of Vincent van Gogh (Netherlands, 1853-France, 1890) is that of a tragic and passionate artist who became a painter at age 27 when he found shelter in something that made him burn. It was the only way. It arrived, they say, late to the brush. Before that he left school at age 15, was fired from a million jobs, fell in love with women who despised him, thought he had eaten with God and slept in a barrack with Borinage miners portraying the trade until his little brother warned of the obvious. If he wanted to paint, he must be in Paris. And Van Gogh began to take the first steps towards his own art.

What Theo did for his brother was not done by anyone else. He was the only person who tried to understand him and remained at his side, tireless, until the genius closed his eyes. Vincent was then considered a failed man, without money, without artistic education. Rude and elusive in the forms. The temperament of that lonely and restless person, who never stopped wondering why, why and why, has to do with a childhood he said was “sad, cold and sterile.” That’s why the real Van Gogh we can only know him in the almost 800 letters he wrote throughout his life while his personality is obscured by the myth and the passage of time.

Among the nearly 650 he exchanged with his brother, the last one, unfinished, was found in the bed where he died: “I risked my life for my work, and my reason half destroyed…”. The plot of Loving VincentDorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, focuses on a message, the delivery of that last letter to Theo. The journey undertaken by Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth) becomes a kind of investigation into the mysterious circumstances surrounding the artist’s death in the small town of Auvers during July 1890. Roulin takes us through the different scenarios -which are the own paintings sketched by the Dutchman – through his characters, played here also by Helen McCrory, Chris O’Dowd, Saoirse Ronan, Jeromy Flynn or Aidan Turner.

Loving Vincent is the first feature film composed of animated paintings, a movie tribute to Van Gogh in which each scene is an oil painting as the painter would have executed it. The 80 minutes that the film lasts are composed of 56,800 frames that have been painted in 680 canvases by 150 painters for six years. This British-Polish co-production started from an initial idea: to paint a complete film, frame by frame. It is told by its director, Hugh Welchman: “Van Gogh painted everything that was around him: people, rooms, plants and even his shoes . It was someone special who painted his own personality, a personality with a dramatic story that my wife and I found perfect to tell through his own canvases and letters.”

The result, innovative, is a film through his gaze – of which Welchman says “was as sensitive as it was inspiring” -; a vibrant vision through the golds, ochers and blues of Vincent Van Gogh. The script of the film was recorded in 14 days outdoors and in front of cromas. This material was given to a team of painters who turned each painting into an individual painting. Then the sequences were created with actors who played Van Gogh’s own characters in order to pass it on to the computer and facilitate the scenes of the paintings created. That same result has earned them, for the time being, Hugh Welchman and Dorota the highest award of the 30th edition of the European Film Awards. And what will come.

In the film they tell us how Van Gogh’s artistic activity at this stage, his last six weeks of life, was intense (in two months he painted more than 70 paintings). But above all it focuses on the investigation of the theory issued by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White in 2011, which argues that the painter did not commit suicide, but was shot by René Secrétan, a 16-year-old boy He had fun walking the fields dressed as a cowboy while doing shooting practice. Apparently, he also loved tormenting Vincent. The biographers argue, then, that on his deathbed, the painter claimed to have committed suicide. Maybe because of tired despair or not charging against the boy. Welchman notes: “Why would he commit suicide at this time in his life? He started selling, he stopped drinking… ».

Since Van Gogh arrived in Paris and under the shelter of his brother Theo, he became an autodidact to sign, in just 10 years, some 900 paintings and 1,600 drawings. He only managed to sell a painting. The film shows us, with those thick strokes and thick brush strokes, how Vincent arrived at the capital of European painting without artistic education but knowing what he wanted to do. And that was in Auvers where things worsened: the personality of the painter became more coarse, distant and elusive. He transmitted a pessimism about the life that dragged him to mental clinics wrapped in a halo, some say, of madness. Like Paul Gauguin’s, which was well worth an ear. The act of cutting the lobe and then laying it on the knees of a prostitute overshadowed his entire career.

The trajectory of Vincent Van Gogh was, then, marked by his own feelings… He was a highly sensitive artist. The last movie about his life counts it well. Also the letters he left. Like the last, unfinished (why did not he?): “My dear Theo, a bird caged in spring knows very well that there is something for what it would serve. He feels strongly that he must do something, but he can not … Think: The other birds build their nests, have children and raise them. Then, he hits his head against the bars of the cage. But the cage is still there and the bird goes mad with pain, “the painter wrote to his brother, the only one who believed in him without rest and during every moment of his life. And the only one who, after all, was not wrong.

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