Vincent Van Gogh is one of the world’s most recognizable painters. Hailing from The Netherlands, Van Gogh became one of the most influential and important painters in history, and a major contributor to the Post-Impressionist era of painting. Moving away from his surrounding conventions, Van Gogh crafted dreamy, flowing art pieces that almost seemed to move on their own. It seems only natural, then, that someone would attempt to move Van Gogh’s work from the canvas to film. But for one team of talented filmmakers, they decided film was the right medium, but canvas was still essential to capturing the feel of Van Gogh’s paintings.
Loving Vincent is a truly unique film experiencing that will be coming out later this year. It tells the story of Vincent Van Gogh through his work or, rather, painted frames that animate Van Gogh’s work an life. Produced by BreakThru Films (perhaps most famous for the special effects in La Vie En Rose) and Trademark Films, the film is written and directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman. Cast members include Chris O’Dowd (The IT Crowd, St. Vincent), Saoirse Ronan (Hannah, Brooklyn), and Jerome Flynn (Game of Thrones), who will play various characters featured in Van Gogh’s paintings. Perhaps fittingly, the project was partially funded through an extremely successful Kickstarter campaign, which helped cover the large costs involved with making the film.
The film bears a striking resemblance to rotoscoping, an animation technique used in films like Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly, but it couldn’t be more different. Unlike rotoscoping, which animates over film cells of real-life actors, the crew behind Loving Vincent created the film using only canvas and paint. Each of the film’s 62,450 frames is a full oil painting, painted in the style and technique of Vincent Van Gogh, and is done by a team of 85 individual painters. The result is not only the world’s first fully painted feature film, but a captivating exploration into the art of Van Gogh’s paintings. So, just like traditional animation, the cast only lends their voices.
The film is set to be screened in an elaborate art exhibit that will tour around major art galleries. The exhibit will include, according to the film’s website, “original paintings and artwork from the film, a real-life painting animator, and large scale bespoke exhibits that show how this unique artistic endeavour was accomplished.”
Loving Vincent, besides being appropriately named, is yet another example of how art can push and change entire mediums. When we generally think about painting and film, we think of documentaries, or perhaps paint on glass animation, but Loving Vincent pushes the medium of film, well, completely past its actual physical components. Hopefully the film will feature a widespread release on top of its art exhibition so more people can experience this entirely new way of making film, and develop a deeper appreciation for one of history’s most talented artists.