Welcome to Animation Globe where HeadStuff’s animation expert Joseph Learoyd analyses films of the form from around the world. This entry is on 2017 Polish animation Loving Vincent.
Loving Vincent does something that has been seen very rarely in the world of animation. A Polish/UK production detailing the life of famous artist Vincent van Gogh, this film contains 65,000 frames, all painted using oil on canvas – replicating van Gogh’s techniques through a workforce of 125 artists from around the globe. What this results in is a gorgeous celebration of a beloved figure, an in-depth study into his mind and an animation style that makes it stand out strongly from the crowd.
Winner of best animated feature at the 30th European Film Awards and earning an Oscar nomination in the same category, Loving Vincent is the world’s first painted feature-length animation. On top of this, the film takes on a form of rotoscoping, similar in style to A Scanner Darkly. The cast – played by some well-known actors, including our very own Saoirse Ronan and Chris O’Dowd – filmed their scenes in front of a green screen. This was before editors composited van Gogh paintings as backgrounds and a group of artists travelled to Poland to paint over each frame in a six-year-long production process.
In terms of the plot, the movie follows a young man (Douglas Booth) walking in the footsteps of van Gogh in order to deliver the troubled artist’s final letter. As he does so, he begins to investigate the actions that occurred in the final days of van Gogh’s life.
Co-written and directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, this clear passion project managed to capture the hearts of a globe, earning over $42 million at the box office on just a $5.5 million budget. This is thanks to its vivid depictions and callbacks to van Gogh’s works like ‘Starry Night’, ‘Portrait of the Postman Joseph Roulin’ and ‘Wheatfield with Crows’ and the way it showcases the artist himself as a well-rounded but deeply complex individual.
Nearly 100 of the artist’s works are recreated in Loving Vincent, which no doubt was a huge undertaking. Co-director Kobiela conceived of this project after reading van Gogh’s letters and wanted to tell the tale of his life. A painter herself, she found something in his writings that she needed to share. Starting life as a short film idea, the filmmakers managed to devise a method to blend the rotoscoping, CGI, live-action and painting elements in order to wind up with the visually stunning final film.
The paint needed to be added in a way that captured the brush strokes of the medium and helped to showcase the flow of motion in the style of van Gogh, capturing his very essence in each frame. Some palette revisions had to take place, with certain alterations carried out for authenticity or to allow for varied canvas sizes to fit the film aspect ratio. The viewer sees the protagonist enter and exit shots and scenes like paintings, the painting style changing to further help reflect the experimental phases and changes in Van Gogh’s style.
Loving Vincent is an animated experience like no other, a movie that attempts to do something unique and rarely seen due to the sheer complexity and detail involved. As such, the style is fitting for its one-of-a-kind subject – with the movie feeling like a truly powerful celebration of the man and his timeless works. Some say that the production team spent too long on this project. Others say that it was necessary to deliver a work of wonder that van Gogh himself may have considered a masterpiece.