Vincent Van Gogh Will get Animated in Groundbreaking Movie

Artist Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) is of course best known for his Impressionistic paintings. But if he were toiling as an animator in 2017, his work might just look like what’s in the groundbreaking new film about him and his tragic life.

Loving Vincent is the world’s first fully-oil painted feature film, done not only in Van Gogh’s artistic style, but using computers to transform the voice actors (which include Chris O’Dowd, Saoirse Ronan, and Douglas Booth) into animated versions of themselves.

In this film still, actress Saoirse Ronan is real-life doctor's daughter Marguerite Gachet at the piano, from a Van Gogh painting.

In this film still, actress Saoirse Ronan is real-life doctor’s daughter Marguerite Gachet at the piano, from a Van Gogh painting.

Courtesy of Blue Integrated Communications

And the numbers add another layer: Production took seven years with the work of 125 painters who produced 65,000 individual frames. Each artist took a 180 hour training course before even picking up a brush. Some painters took up to 10 days to paint one second of film. But according to directors, Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, the production was not as daunting as it sounds.

“I wasn’t really anxious about the boldness of the project. I pushed for it to be a feature length project because I thought our first tests looked like nothing I’d seen in ten years of working in animation,” Welchman says. “I was excited by how it looked and thought audiences would be too. Often, people said to me it was a crazy idea!”

Kobiela adds that she was most intimidated not by the art process, but writing a feature length script for the first time. “I really wanted to do justice to Vincent’s work in re-imagining it for film. But at the end of the day, it was really a process of studying his paintings endlessly, and making the call as to the best way to re-imagine the paintings.”

The main events in the film take place a year after Van Gogh’s death by suicide—or was it? The narrative also unfolds like a good murder mystery. That’s when the son of Van Gogh’s postman attempts to deliver a letter that Vincent wrote to his brother and benefactor Theo just before he died.

Finding that Theo has passed as well, the postman’s son takes a journey retracing Van Gogh’s last year of life, encountering a series of both real people and figures inspired by his paintings, each of which has a different story to tell about their experiences and relationship with Vincent. Flashback scenes fill in the story of Van Gogh’s life up to his final days, and the animation manages to be both realistic and fanciful with lush landscapes, night life scenes, and portraits copied from actual Van Gogh paintings.

This film still based on EXPAND

This film still based on “Night Cafe, Arles” shows Lt. Milliet (Robin Hodges) and Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth).

Courtesy of Blue Integrated Communications

Both directors have long held a love for the artwork and life story of Vincent Van Gogh. That’s been consistent for Kobiela about his paintings since her teens, and for Welchman about his life story at a later…

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