Media & Entertainment

Loving Vincent: A Level-Up for Animated Feature Films

Neysa Azalia
Written by Neysa Azalia

Vincent van Gogh. A name that I’m sure everyone has heard of, and an especially important one considering his legacy. Recently, a biopic of Van Gogh’s final moments has been released in the U.S. and is soon making its way to the Netherlands. And get this, it’s no ordinary biopic as it marks the first-ever release and distribution of a fully painted animation feature film that screams ‘art! art! art!’. Loving Vincent has moved motion picture to a new level – don’t understand what I’m talking about yet? Watch the trailer below!

A century ago we would’ve marveled at the idea of stop motions and animations, but today motion picture has reached a completely new level. With a total of 65,000 frames combining live-action, oil-on-canvas painting and stop motion processes, the project took seven years to complete with over 125 professional oil painters to do the job. But it is truly husband-wife directors Hugh Welchman and Dorota Kobiela that should get credit, as they gave birth to this ingenious animation work process once the idea of a Vincent van Gogh biopic was in the works.

Van Gogh said, ‘We cannot speak other than by our paintings’ and according to Kobiela, ‘Those were the words that literally inspired the whole idea.”

How it all started
In a podcast about animation by the Bancroft Brothers, Welchman explains how he was inspired to make a feature film about the famous Dutch painter in the first place. He was queuing in line for an exhibition of Van Gogh’s letters for three and a half hours and had come to the realization that people would line up for three and a half hours just to read letters – it was then and there he perceived Van Gogh as a 19th-century rock star (his words, not mine) who deserves to have his story told.

Van Gogh said, ‘We cannot speak other than by our paintings,’ and according to Kobiela, “Those were the words that literally inspired the whole idea.” Combining their expertise to the work, Welchman’s wife Kobiela came up ‘with the idea of turning professional oil painters to animators’ in order to depict a totally unique and artistic biopic that not only matches the underlying character of the famous painter, but also brings a new flavor to filmmaking with a workflow that is truly uncanny.

We, as audiences, should be honored for being able to witness such a beautifully crafted work of art. Given her fine arts background and a newfound interest for filmmaking, particularly animation, and his reputable producer-background, the husband-wife duo has heightened our expectation for the film industry today.

What the process was like
The production process wasn’t simple, to say the least. In terms of plot content, the creators had to collaborate with the Van Gogh museum wherein the museum director, Axel Rüger, had approved the concept and film script. Kobiela had a system of approving every single frame for the film in which each second requires twelve paintings. Yup, every single shot was indeed a canvas painting that was painted based on the live-action reference (imagine all those all-nighters they probably pulled – I guess student life is relatable to anybody. Just kidding).

Meanwhile, the actors only had to come for roughly a day’s shoot at the studio, and the rest was left to Kobiela, Welchman and their team of 125 painters. Imagine the amount of passion, collaboration and dedication that are poured into this 95-minute piece of art.

The future of Loving Vincent
Creators of the film also wish for art students, typically fine art students, to watch this film as a reference and/or inspiration for their artistic journey. Needless to say, this film will not only speak to fine art students, but also the public at large. We are always intrigued at the thought of anything new, and so I wouldn’t be surprised if viewing numbers for Loving Vincent in the cinema turn out higher than expected.

However, distribution is still an issue because the creators have identified that only a few cinemas in the Mid-West will be screening the film. Yet, this European-centric appeal, as personified by its studio locations in Poland and Greece, will not be the end of its appeal to the worldly audience. After gaining recognition and honor from the Shanghai International Film Festival, they’re more than ready to present Loving Vincent to the rest of the world; they’ve released a global screening schedule on their official website.

Are you now mind-blown by Loving Vincent? If you are, us Holland inhabitants have the opportunity to meet the creators and watch the film’s premiere on October 7th, 2017 at the Cinemec in Ede. The national release will be on October 26. I, personally, am looking forward to watching this film as a way of celebrating a new milestone in film history.

Cover: Руслан Гамзалиев

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About the author

Neysa Azalia

Neysa Azalia

Born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia, Neysa aims to make the most of her experiences studying and residing 11,000 kilometres away from her country of birth. She enjoys creative storytelling through mostly visual and textual instruments.