By Nevin Ulusoy

One of the most famous artists of the world, his priceless works are exhibited in the greatest museums, art galleries. I suppose there is nobody who has not heard of him, the copies of his works are everywhere, just as he wanted. As the Japanese prints he admired, the direct influence of his works embraces us. However, he could sell only one picture when he was alive. An artist people connect with insanity, a life the drama of the artists who proceed on the thin line between insanity and genius oozes, infused with melancholy. 

He paints pictures as some people write or make music to pour out their hearts, he is behind a curtain of dark loneliness.

“Loving Vincent” is a film on Vincent Van Gogh directed in 2017, a co-production of Poland and Britain. It attracts our attention as it tells us the life story of the artist and trails how he died like a detective story. The film also tries to give us a clue of the mysterious world of the genius. The most interesting aspect of the film is that each frame of the film has been prepared by painting on the canvas, we are face to face with an animation like that for the first time in the world. It took six years to finish the film, 125 artists worked for it , 65000 picture frames were used and 853 pictures were prepared. All these frames were prepared from Van Gogh’s paintings by using his technique. Van Gogh’s pictures tell us about him, it is as if they talk to us beyond years. It starts with the famous “Yellow House”, the other pictures tell their stories in turn. It was filmed with real actors first, the similarity between the actors and the characters is amazing. The directors are Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Wechman, the actors are Douglas Booth (Armand Raulin), Saoirse Ronan (Margareth Gachet), Robert Gulaczyk (Van Gogh). The music that takes us inside the pictures with the story is by Clint Mansell. The film has many awards as well,. Russia The Best Foreign Language Film Award, an award from Poland on The Best Production Design and The Best Animation Film award  in Shanghai International Film Festival. It was nominated for the Oscar as well. 

The story is mainly told by Armand Roulin who Van Gogh drew when he was 17. We are told the story of the trial to give the artist’s last letter to his brother Theo on Van Gogh’s sudden death and because he was dead as well, going back to the town where he last lived, how he lived and died there. By using flashback techniques some important aspects in his life are told us. There are questions about his death. Armand Roulin finds the people who were in contact with him and talks to them. Some people do not believe that he committed suicide, some think that he was the devil’s friend and imply his end was no surprise. For the most he was just a lunatic, even the kids stoned him. The film does not suffocate us with all the details, the tension is alive, we are dragged by the film. The flashbacks are black and white, like the memories left far behind. It seems that the letters he writes to his brother are his only tie with life, except for his paintings. He paints pictures as some people write or make music to pour out their hearts, he is behind a curtain of dark loneliness. Sometimes he hangs out with some young people who do not understand him, this makes him even lonelier. He has been treated at an asylum, he also has financial problems all the time. He is always with the pain of not being able to be an ordinary person. Just like the knight in English Romantic poet John Keats’ “La Belle Dame Sans Merci”, the harvest is not enough for him. Full warehouses, the squirrel that has hoarded its food, the ghost of worry for tomorrow that never leaves humans alone, no, his soul is after other things, this search burns him inside. This search is behind his looks, the looks people think to be devilish, he yearns for being understood in his search, but no, the common fate of genius philosophers, writers and many artists, the pain of loneliness is with him, too. But the humble world he pictures, the fields, his tiny, plain room, the glow of the tree trunks, the seeding country people is enough to fill him with happiness. He is humble, he asks for people to understand his big heart, he desires their reaching for what he has behind his wild outlook. But people behave in a strange way to strangers, they do not want the people who do not belong to them, just like The Doors song “People are Strange”. “People are strange, when you’re a stranger, faces look ugly when you’re alone.” The painted birds must be destroyed or people must be satisfied on how right their own way of living is by looking at them, so those are the ones who deserve to go to hell. Hence, these good people prove to themselves that they will go to heaven. In Jerzy Kosinski’s “The Painted Bird”, the child who is the hero of the book stays with a bird seller for some time. When this man sets his birds free, he catches a bird and paints it to a different colour. The birds cannot accept differences. They come together, destroy the bird and go back to their nests. People who refuse to be the same with others or cannot be like the others induce hostility unintentionally. Even if they want to live like the others, it can be only to some extent…

The film tries to make us understand the reasons for Van Gogh’s melancholy. He cannot be successful at the places he works, the problems that started in his childhood are always with him. He is not loved much by his family, he has felt it deeply. “Lost in a Roman wilderness of pain and all the children are insane, waiting for the summer rain,” the unloved children that are told in The Doors song “The End”, the children that have been poisoned by  lovelessness. These children carry this pain in their bosoms when they are adults of course, their depression is clear even in their childhood. But it was this depression that made him create great works of art that are accepted as the beginning of modern art. His most beautiful pictures were painted at his most depressed time, pain is the reason of art. He was influenced by the artistic movements of his time, but he used them in an entirely different way, he showed his feelings inside with paint brush strokes. The paint brush strokes of earlier artists showed the mastery of the artist, in Van Gogh they show how ardently he worked, his heart at one point. Even the most ordinary objects in nature fascinated him. Being realistic was not very important, he was not trying to copy nature as it was, shadows and reflections were not important, he was trying to reflect the feelings he had of the things he saw. His brother was trying to support him. His letters show us both his mad fidelity to his art and his yearnings in detail. The film is named after the way he ended his letters. We see lots of quotations from these letters in the film. The deep love between two brothers influences us deeply, the only person in Van Gogh’s life until the end. Here is a little quotation from a letter to his brother in which he tells the moments of inspiration:              ”The excitement is sometimes so strong, you work without noticing it… and paint brush strokes, they follow one another like the progress and consistency of words in a speech or a letter.”  

“Loving Vincent” focuses on the artist’s stance as a human rather than his technique, his place in art. As the frames are formed from his paintings, it is as if he tells us about himself. The ongoing movement of the film makes us both focus on the artist and go to the depths of the being that is called human. We are also hurt when the children stone him, the acknowledgement of his works, even though it is late, warms our hearts. We see that depression is not because of lack of character just like Armand and we pay this great genius  our respects in the light of what oozes from the curtain. 

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