When movie buffs ask for originality in filmmaking, many artists of the cinema protest that everything has already been done on the silver screen, so viewers shouldn’t look for the impossible. Well, the recent film, “Loving Vincent,” belies that blithe demurrer, because it has originality stamped all over it.
There have been a number of movies about Vincent van Gogh made in the past, but this film bio trumps them all, because it vivifies the painterly aspect to his essence and ethos, by fusing cinema with the visual arts.
It’s a brilliant concept, but also a daunting one, because it required the production to spend years and additional millions to get scores of painters to come up with hundreds of original artworks that make a number of Van Gogh’s “signature” masterworks come “alive” on the silver screen!
Even more rigorously and insightfully, the paintings are expanded in dramatic and thematic pertinence and significance, to impinge on Van Gogh’s personal and artistic issues and crises.
It’s an extremely complex and daunting challenge to tackle because it requires a seamless fusion of potentially contrary elements. Consequently, some of the movie’s attempts at pertinent and significant visualization fall short of the seamless mark—but enough sequences do work perfectly well, so the cinematic “experiment” is generally successful.
As a result, it expands the possibilities of artistic cinema beyond heretofore prescribed and proscribed limits, hopefully inspiring other filmmakers to be similarly daring in breaking established “rules” of what can and can’t be done.
Most impressive and moving of the film’s efforts are the scenes that plumb Van Gogh’s contorted and conflicted psyche, by focusing especially on the most “distorted” artworks in his teeming and seething oeuvre—and insightfully underscoring telling links between the personal and the artistic.
Viewers finally understand why Van Gogh “blighted” his images so much—graphically to depict and mirror how he felt deep inside his suffering psyche.
Yes, he drastically influenced and altered the art scene in the process, but the wellsprings of his anguished attempts were more personal than artistic.
One unintentional outcome of “Loving Vincent” is the fact that the film’s swirling and “slithering” visuals end up upstaging its live actors’ portrayals. Only a few of them manage to survive the near-total rout, like the player (Douglas Booth) tasked to find out how and why the suicidal artist really expired.
Instructively, even the actor tapped to play Van Gogh (Robert Gulaczyk) isn’t able to avoid being diminished in impact by the artistic frenzy boiling and roiling all around him—which makes Booth’s “survival” all the more noteworthy.
Best of all, even as the film’s originality and visual marvels leave its other elements far behind, the production doesn’t forget to be emotionally accessible, with Van Gogh’s tragic and avoidable demise leaving viewers grieving and bereft.
This compellingly proves that technical and creative originality are devoutly to be wished, but man’s humanity and vulnerability are still the most powerful and tellingly subtle storytelling tools of all!