I dream my painting and I paint my dream. ~ Vincent van Gogh
On December 23, 1888, Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh got into a heated argument with his friend and fellow painter Paul Gauguin. In spur of the moment, he threatened Gauguin with a razor before he turned it on himself and cut off his left ear. Later, he documented the event in his famous work, Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear.
This incident was just the beginning of a string of several such nervous breakdowns that led 37-year-old van Gogh to his tragic suicide in 1890. However, the world is yet to reach a consensus on his death. While it is widely believed that he shot himself, some biographers claim that the artist was murdered.
For many of us, the mere mention of starry night, sunflowers, wheat field, cafe terrace, and self-portraits is enough to envision the famous works of one of the most celebrated artists of western art. The man who saw the world in luminous colours, and expressed himself in bold, impulsive and short brushstrokes, and dramatic swirls—Vincent van Gogh. His works, though rooted in reality, rendered surreal charm to imagination and vivacity to expression.
How can one chronicle van Gogh's turbulent life—striving to express his emotions and state of mind through paintings while battling mental illness—without looking at the world the way he did? Perhaps, that explains why Polish painter Dorota Kobiela and filmmaker Hugh Welchman took up the challenge to tell the story of van Gogh's tragic life and mysterious death in his unique style—like a dream.
Loving Vincent is not just a biopic. It is world’s first feature-length painting film. Sounds like a well-deserved tribute to the man who lived in his paintings? Well, that is the idea. “The reason we are doing it is not because we want to be the first, or that we want to set any records, it is because we believe that you cannot truly tell Vincent’s story without his paintings, so we needed to bring his paintings to life,” says the Loving Vincent team, on their website.
In March, this year, the filmmakers had released a trailer advertising the project and inviting entries from artists all over the world to join the Loving Vincent team in Poland. Those who passed a three-day test were given a 180-hour crash course in van Gogh's style of artistic expression. Many of the 107 artists, who are part of the project, are not formally trained painters. In fact, Bhopal artist Shuchi Muley—Loving Vincent's Indian connection—is a computer programmer-turned-artist. The 34-year-old, reportedly, quit her job in 2014 to pursue her passion for painting.
The entire film was shot with actors, before the painters took up the laborious process of painting each scene, merging actors with van Gogh's distinctive portraits and blending them into his psychedelic landscapes. The film is made of 62,450 frames in oil painting. The time-consuming process involved painting first frame as a full painting on canvas and then painting it over and over again, frame-by-frame, until the last frame of the shot. Something like a flip book. These still paintings, along with live-action images, were then translated into a fluid film by a team of animators, delivering every movement in the film in van Gogh's signature style.
The film comprises 853 shots, which means the Loving Vincent team is left with 853 oil paintings of all final shots. The team plans to put 200 of these paintings on sale over the next two years—42 are already up for sale.
The filmmakers claim that it took them over 120 paintings as source material, over 800 handwritten letters by van Gogh to construct the plot, six years of creative development, four years of developing painting animation technique and over a year of painting design team reimagining van Gogh's paintings as a moving picture to complete the project.
Produced by Oscar-winning studios, BreakThru Films & Trademark Films, Loving Vincent stars popular actors such as Saoirse Ronan (Oscar Nominee for Brooklyn), Aidan Turner (The Hobbit), Helen McCrory (Harry Potter) and Douglas Booth (Noah).
The filmmakers will host a sneak-peek screening of Loving Vincent at the National Gallery in London on October 28. The film will be released globally in 2017.
Watch the making of Loving Vincent, here: