Loving Vincent

Van Gogh’s torment immediately before and after his death are vividly played out in a captivating manner.

Loving VincentLoving Vincent is a unique film that may prove to be one of the year’s hidden cinematic gems. The film is a composite of the work of over 100 artists who find a way to combine live action and animation in a fashion never seen before on the big screen. Interestingly, the actors are drawn where they don’t lose their identity.

In the eight short years that Van Gogh pursued his artistic craft, he produced over 300 paintings. Only one sold in his lifetime, and the remainder gained attention only when society awakened to Van Gogh’s genius.

Following Van Gogh’s death which was considered a suicide, Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth) sets out on a journey to deliver a letter written by Van Gogh to one of his friends. In the process, Roulin runs into unexpected obstacles, one of which is to determine how a man could have committed suicide by shooting himself in the stomach.

Roulin’s journey was instigated by his father, a postman wonderfully played as expected by Chris O’Dowd. Mr. O’Dowd is one of my favorite actors, and I can only encourage you to hunt down his stunning contribution in the memorable film, The Sapphires (2013).

In addition, the movie is also helped by the extraordinary talents of Saoirse Ronan, here playing Marguerite Gachet. Ms. Ronan’s character personally knew Van Gogh, and she provided insight to Ronan as he attempted to set aside his concerns that the artist may have been killed. Ms. Ronan is an actress of significance, and I can’t wait to see her new film Lady Bird, which just arrived here in Indianapolis as I wrote this review.

The rest of the cast make meaningful contributions, but let me just point out the performances of Robert Gulaczyk who played Mr. Van Gogh and Jerome Flynn who appeared as Dr. Gachet. While Mr. Gulaczyk says very little, your heart breaks as you watch him attempt to sit in the fields working on his paintings as he was harassed by a group of local boys. In addition, you quickly realize he was a troubled man when he sent his severed ear to a brothel. At this moment many of you movie fans will recall Kirk Douglas’s role as Vincent in the film Lust for Life (1956).

Mr. Flynn’s Dr. Gachet has a central role, playing a man who was close to Vincent. Roulin was able to set aside his suspicions surrounding Van Gogh’s death after directly confronting Gachet who was present when the artist died after suffering in bed for two days.

While I fear that my review will not fully capture the genius of this film, let me just point out the poignant ending. As many as knew Van Gogh were haunted by the feeling that they could have done more to save this troubled soul, you hear the song “Vincent” being sung in the background. It was written by Don McLean and released in his 1971 album “American Pie”. While it remains one of my favorite CDs to this day, let me just close by quoting some of the lyrics:

“Now I think I know what you tried to say to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free
They would not listen, they did not know how
Perhaps they’ll listen now
For they could not love you
But still your love was true
And when no hope was left in sight
On that starry, starry night
You took your life as lover’s often do
But I could have told you, Vincent
This world was never meant for one
As beautiful as you.”