Loving Vincent and the Van Gogh Mania

Just like the bad boy Caravaggio, the legendary Jackson Pollock, or the eccentric Andy Warhol, van Gogh has become a sacred figure in the commercial world of art. Whether at the museum, the cinema, or even the theatre, the obscure and mysterious circumstances surrounding his life and death have been the source of endless fantasies that captivate millions.

Most recently, this obsession was realised in the self-flattering film Loving Vincent, directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman. The film’s premise is to make van Gogh and his art come to life through an impressive sequence of 65,000 oil paintings in the “style of van Gogh” created by a team of over 100 painters. The scenes were shot with real actors first and transformed into oil paintings by this team.

But what the film offers in terms of visual grandeur, it lacks in acting and plot. In an unclear space between fantasy and fact – in the perfect modern hagiography – the main character, Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth), sets out to find the truth behind van Gogh’s death. On his father’s (the mailman who delivered van Gogh’s letters) insistence, Armand goes to Paris and then to Auvers, where van Gogh lived his last days. There he interviews the figures whom van Gogh had portrayed and who were somehow related to his death, in the typical fashion of a murder mystery. At the end of the film, he comes to no conclusion other than that no one but Armand and a couple of people who really got him realised his genius “Did you know he was a genius? Well, I did”. Needless to say, behind the bizarre attempt to bring his art to life, the film relies on dreadful acting, clichés, and empty statements. But this lack of substance is