'Loving Vincent': A modern animation masterpiece

Loving Vincent is the world's first fully painted feature film produced by Oscar-winning studios Breakthru Films and Trademark Films.  (Screenshot/Loving Vincent)

Loving Vincent is the world's first fully painted feature film produced by Oscar-winning studios Breakthru Films and Trademark Films.  (Screenshot/Loving Vincent)

In an industry increasingly defined by its lack of originality and by the numbers format (both in blockbusters and dramas), there have been fewer and fewer films which push the envelope of the medium to achieve something that has never been seen before. This year has been especially difficult for the genre of animation, giving us “The Emoji Movie,” “The Boss Baby,”, “The Nut Job 2” and “My Little Pony: The Movie.” Thankfully, “Loving Vincent” comes as a breath of fresh air, reminding us of the level of power and artistry that animation can reach.

Directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, “Loving Vincent” tells the story of tortured Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh from a truly unique perspective. Set after the artist’s untimely death, the film follows Armand Roulin (the son of one of Vincent’s friends) as he attempts to deliver a letter from van Gogh to his brother, investigating the circumstances of his supposed suicide along the way.

Where the film excels is in its groundbreaking animation. Every single frame of the film (which runs for 155 minutes) is hand painted in the style of a van Gogh painting. His classical paintings were brought to life, as viewers are able to explore classic locations such as The Starry Night, Bedroom at Arles, the Wheatfield and the Café Terrace at Night. The animators used incredible ingenuity to complete this monumental task, filming the actors on real sets and then using rotoscoping techniques to paint over top of the images. This way, the faces of the actors are recognizable, while still appearing in the style of van Gogh’s portraits.

Apart from the incredible animation, the film also boasts a stellar cast, with standout performances by Saoirse Ronan (“Brooklyn”), Jerome Flynn (“Game of Thrones”), Chris O’Dowd (“Bridesmaids”) and Douglas Booth (“Romeo and Juliet”). The skill of the actors brings out the intense drama of van Gogh’s life and makes viewers connect and empathize with his tragic story. Aside from the actors, the end credits feature an outstanding performance of Don McLean’s classic song “Vincent,” sung by Lianne La Havas, leaving the film on a beautiful yet haunting note.

The film is not a lighthearted affair, showing the darkest moments of van Gogh’s life in heartbreaking detail. Despite this, the story remains incredibly intriguing, even offering new takes on the events of van Gogh’s life and death. The specific angle that it takes on the story was popularized in Stephen Naifeh and Gregory White Smith’s bestselling biography, “Van Gogh: The Life.” Because of this, the story remains engaging and does not feel like a retread of previous biopics on the artist.

This film achieves what few others have, transcending its genre to show audiences what animation is truly capable of achieving both emotionally and visually. While some who are not particularly familiar with or interested in van Gogh’s life may get bored with the story, there is still much to enjoy. “Loving Vincent” receives my highest recommendation. This is one of the best films I have seen all year and the most beautiful animated film I have ever seen in my life. This is required viewing for anyone interested in the arts.

Rating: 4.75 / 5


Evan Burns is campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at evan.burns@uconn.edu.