Loving Vincent is, in every sense, a labour of love. The journey began with directors Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchan falling in love and getting married. Hugh then convinced his new wife to turn her Van Gogh-style painted short film idea into something feature-length. Then came the task of raising funds via Kickstarter, where it became clear that nothing like this had ever been attempted before.
After securing the funding, the pain-staking process of painting the film frame by frame took the artists 7 years in total, with each person usually working on the same 100-frame shot for at least a month. They painted in curtained-off cubicles in studios in Poland and Greece. “[Loving Vincent] was truly independent and I believe the artists worked more for the love of it than the financial gain,” said Mayra, an Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) graduate who painted in the largest studio in Gdańsk, Poland, “I felt extremely honoured every moment I was there.”
The concept behind this beautifully unique animation is reason to see Loving Vincent in itself, and the film manages to entertain and inform as well. Through recreating Vincent Van Gogh’s desolate final months before his death, the film becomes a whodunit that delves into the theory that he may have been shot by a teenager as the result of a prank that went wrong. It stars Chris O’Dowd and Douglas Booth, with Robert Gulaczyk taking the role of Van Gogh, who appears in pencil-drawn flashbacks.
“One of the funny difficulties for some of us was painting the main character, played by Douglas Booth, as his jacket is a bright yellow lemon outlined with Prussian blue,” said Mayra, “If you join just a little bit of blue with yellow, it gives you green. We needed to be really careful so as to not make his jacket too dirty or messy.”
Any wrong smudge of paint could completely throw off the actor’s expression, and the thick paint then had to be removed with a spatula.
Mayra believes her time at ECA was crucial to her coping with a task that was sometimes quite tedious. “Most of the people who participated were painters with no background in animation,” she said, “but thanks to ECA I had both an artistic and an animation background”
The film is an exceptionally touching tribute to Van Gogh’s work and influence. It is overwhelmingly sad to witness the talented artist’s battle with his own mental health, and the use of the monochrome scenes help you to visualise his ever-present pain.
“As an artist your work can get rejected, criticised, or neglected. He went through that almost his whole life,” said Mayra, “But he painted out of love, not for recognition. He put soul and emotion into his paintings.”