Loving Vincent is a film about the death of Vincent van Gogh, told through his paintings, and I mean that phrase much more literally than usual. Every single frame of this movie was hand-painted by a team of artists, building movement by repainting their brush strokes over and over, so that in these images you know so well, now the woman gets up from her chair, the man lowers his curled hands, the crows keep flying up over the shivering golden field and wing away into the dark sky.
It is one of the most beautiful and unusual things I have ever seen. From the very first moment it stuns you, your breath catching in your throat as a painting comes to life before your eyes. And then, a person comes life before your eyes. Because Loving Vincent is a meditation on art as much as a meditation on humanity. We get to know some of the people in Vincent’s life and in his works, and through these disparate, conflicting souls, get to know his. Also conflicted within himself, and tender, and ever, ever heartfelt.
Sometimes movies become known simply for a daring and original feature of their production. This will be one of them, because there has truly never been anything like it. Driving back from the theater, my friend and I were trying to figure out what Oscars it will even be nominated for anyway. Is it Art Direction? Does Art Direction apply to the incomprehensible feat of painting over 65,000 frames to make a movie? Or does it fall under the category of Animation? Is it still Animation if the artists were working off of filmed performances by actors?
But these are all questions I had after watching it. While watching it, there was only the hypnotic, vivid beauty of seeing the postmaster breathe under a starry night sky, listening with me to one of the countless exquisite letters Vincent wrote his beloved brother, Theo. Loving Vincent is more than its conceit. It is a simple yet introspective film, a picture book, a poem, and, yes, a work of art.