Speechless! Loving Vincent movie is a work of a genius, of a combined effort of a team and a vision of directors who have immense knowledge about how to film a scene. What stands out almost immediately is the way it has been projected and portrayed on 65000 oil paintings by hundreds of artists from all across the globe, and such fine animation it retains that it would leave every innate motion to shame.
The amount of work that has been put in and the gargantuan size of that effort will leave you marveling over what humans can achieve if they put their heart into something. It is an ideal paragon of colossal things that we can achieve when braided together.
A Forgotten History
Loving Vincent not only boasts of its teamwork but it also carefully builds itself over that thin edge of reverence and criticism that we often carry for forgotten people.
For instance, so far I just knew that Vincent Van Gogh was one of the most brilliant painters of his time and that he was one ear short as portrayed in one of his self-paintings. I knew nothing of how, nothing about his life or the history that he became whilst trying to do one thing he loved to do – painting. Until of course, I saw Loving Vincent movie for myself, and everything changed. My very perception of this man I didn’t know. I felt a hole in my heart being filled as I was able to relate to Vincent who had so much going on in his life.
It is hard not to love him not for just the work he did, of which it speaks volume, but for a man trying to find his place in a world that failed to understand him. The latter relates to me on so many levels that I fell in love with the artist almost instantly.
The Plot of Loving Vincent
The plot basically strands out from Vincent Van Gogh’s life, as was consumed after death from the eyes of Armand Roulin from The Roulin Family It is voiced and painted on Douglas Booth who by the way fits right into the presumable boots of the original, of a man who had grown to hate Vincent. But as Loving Vincent progresses he comes to understand Vincent’s mindset appreciating him all the way.
Armand empathizes for him, wearing his shoes as he becomes him, literally sleeping in his bed to realize that the world was just too cruel for Vincent and that people failed to do enough.
Full Spoilers and Analysis of Loving Vincent
There are questions that weigh on him of which he elicits answers from, but in doing so he becomes immensely affected. Trying to deliver Vincent’s last letter which was given to Armand’s father postmaster Joseph Roulin who was also one of Vincent’s friends (he has been painted as well), Armand stumbles across many people who help him understand why Vincent shot himself starting from:
- Pere Tanguy (The Paint Supplier)
- Louise Chevalier (The Housekeeper)
- Adeline Ravoux
- The Boatman
- Marguerite Gache
- Young Man with a Cornflower
- Old Peasant
- Gendarme Rigaumon
- Doctor Mazery
- Doctor Gachet
Babes are like animals son. They can know the heart of a man just by the sight of them.
As a side mission to delivering that letter, he takes upon himself to solve the mystery of the suicide as was asked of him by his father. Armand meets all kinds of people, the ones who hated Vincent to the core to the people who really adored him.
Live longer, you will see. Life can even bring down the strong.
He learns that Vincent was really close to his brother Theo (Cezary Lukaszewicz)to whom the letter was intended.
Two hearts. One mind.
Vincent’s death had left him shattered.
He had actually been with him a whole day at the end, but Vincent insisted they use the time to discuss life not death.
Theo died six months after his brother. As a flashback of sorts, we get to relive the story of Vincent.
He tried so hard to fit into his family. But, he never succeeded in this.
Vincent’s early life was a mess owing to how difficult he found it to find his place.
He struggled to be what they wanted him to be.
But when he picked up the brush when he was 28 (it’s never too late to follow your dreams people) with Theo’s support he was able to pursue it for real. Paris happened to him as Pere Tanguy (John Sessions), puts it:
Everything that happens in art happens here.
Vincent took it as a pitstop to learn before finally bidding farewell to Pere. The latter suggests Armand to see a certain Dr. Gachet (Jerome Flynn) whom he had seen crying the most at Vincent’s funeral.
Next, he runs into Louise Chevalier (Helen McCrory) trying to find the Doctor. She hated Vincent to the core. Louise opines about Vincent as being a troublemaker.
He had these bewildered eyes in which there was something insane, something which you dare not look.
There is this particular scene where Vincent walks into the Doctor’s house as his eyes fall on Marguerite Gachet (Saoirse Ranon), the doctor’s daughter. You could tell Louise hating him for it, stopping and staring at Marguerite like that.
But when you get to hear the story later from Marguerite Gachet’s own mouth, that exact meeting feels entirely different. Vincent had these careful reading eyes, that he couldn’t help stopping to meticulously admire things of beauty whenever he bumped into one.
There is something in that fleeting moment of admiration that stops an artist and takes him away on a tour with his canvas, as an imminent painting in his head unfurls, fluttering to be drawn. (that moment uplifted by “Marguerite Gache at the piano” music by Clint Mansell)
And such veneration one might and one should feel to be identified as a beautiful object by the world’s greatest painters himself. It’s a shame that Louise didn’t know. It’s a shame that nobody knew back then.
It is interesting how perspectives are read. While to Louise, it was unruly but to Marguerite, it was just oodles of love. Just imagine that stark stare of having been identified, of being marked to be painted in the future. If an artist is sundered from his artistry, it would be downright criminal. Louise feels like one of those people who could have done such a thing was she her mother.
Failing to find the doctor, Armand decides to trace Vincent’s steps by sleeping in the same ‘hole’ where Vincent used to stay. There he meets Adeline Ravoux (Eleanor Tomlinson) and they bond quickly.
There’s a line nicely put about her always running errands for her father, which reflects what Armand was doing all this time.
Adeline fills him in her side of the story of how Vincent had shown up with a bullet wound saying,
I tried to kill myself.
How Dr. Gachet was the first one to show up, and how Gindarme Rigaumon (Martin Herdman) came to take Vincent’s statement, and to locate the whereabouts of the gun that was used.
Next was Theo who showed up and stayed with him until the very end.
If only I could’ve been one of them.
Adeline revisits the day she had met Vincent and admired how organized he was, loving how he was different from the rest.
I was wondering when he slept, painting all day, writing these long letters, always reading these fat books.
She suggests Armand to go talk to The Boatman (Aidan Turner) since Vincent loved spending time on the river.
The Boatman remembers Vincent for how carefully he would watch life around the river.
He didn’t talk so much mostly just sat around watching, sometimes painting.
One of the most beautiful moments (uplifted by “Marguerite Gache at the piano” music again) in Loving Vincent, is when he tries to recollect a crow trying to steal Vincent’s food.
He looked so happy that this dirty crow was coming close. Didn’t seem to care that it ran off with his lunch.
The Boatman tells Armand about the boating parties where Vincent would often be found hanging around with the rich boys. On a remark about Vincent being shy, The Boatman tells him about Marguerite Gachet who would often come to the river with Vincent.
They were chatting in that way, you know, like speaking to each other was the most exciting thing ever.
The Church Contrast
Armand once again meets Adeline and comes to know of the rumour spread by the housekeeper about Doctor Gachet being overprotective of his daughter. As the church bells ring in the backdrop, it gives him an idea to ensure the housekeeper is visiting so that he could go see Marguerite at her home.
The housekeeper spills venom for Vincent, smudging him with her theories, of her take on him yet again.
I could see the fever in his eyes at first glance. And the great artist himself, always skulking about, gobbling our food, just making messes in corners.
It’s brilliant how the directors chose to put its immediate line as a summon from the church. It’s the contrast depicting a typical human mind and the way it works.
The placement of spewing ugly things for someone, cursing him, and then remembering to pray, you have to marvel at the pointlessness of doing good when you have just done something bad. It just goes on to show how fickle human mind is. That Louise was simply practicing the exact opposite of what she preached. There was more contempt in her than love while the church never preaches to hate.
Armand finds his window of opportunity to speak to Marguerite when she capers off to church.
Retraced their first meeting, Marguerite paints over what had actually happened, trying to conceal the truth. We get to see the things that had happened through some black and white frames as Vincent had stopped to marvel Marguerite with his searing eyes.
She fills Armand about Doctor Gachet of how both Vincent and Doctor shared common interests. Vincent at one point had called Gachet as his third brother.
They were both artists. They liked the same painters. They understood each other.
Once again hiding the truth Marguerite says that they didn’t socialize even though Vincent painted her several times. On instigating her further and pointing fingers at the Doctor, Marguerite asks him to leave.
Back at the hole, Adeline is pissed off at Armand for leaving her in the middle of a conversation. When Armand tells her why he had left, she tries to recollect more about Doctor Gachet and Vincent.
Maybe they were similar on the outside. He had the same red hair, and that same sad look in his eyes. But, on the inside, they were chalk and cheese.
The immediate frame follows a scene describing how Vincent wasn’t snobbish like Gachet. That he was kind, polite and loving. A little girl shows up to draw with Vincent, as her mother snatches her away to bed.
She’s no trouble.
There is poignancy caked in that scene where you get to feel the emotional pang for Vincent. How the world failed to understand him! They took him for a madman when all he was trying to do was follow his heart.
It also depicts how ravaging it is to destroy the innocence of a child by forcing routines on budding brains. All the poor child wanted was to learn from the best, but the world was and it still is, too insolent to fathom. They are worried about their children becoming one. They want them living simple normal lives instead unknowingly.
The story of Loving Vincent movie unspools more at this very juncture when Adeline tells Armand about how Vincent longed to meet his brother. He got to meet him just once but the meeting didn’t go well.
When he returned from the visit he started asking Adeline for tea towels instead of canvases, since the latter were costly. It was clear that he had had an argument with his brother about money-related issues. It was Theo who bought all his painting accessories after all.
Vincent had handed over a letter to Adeline to be delivered to Theo, asking for paints, that he had a lot of ideas brimming in him.
This is where he lived? And where he died.
Armand lies in Vincent’s bed reading his first letter to Theo.
I feel I see the North all the better from my trip to the South.
He talks about the beauty of the new place he had nestled in. He talks about Doctor Gachet as well.
Doctor Gachet is eccentric. I don’t know how he thinks he can cure me when he seems at least as sick as I am.
As there is nothing else to do but follow your heart, time literally stops for you. There is plenty of time at hand to think and come up with unique creations.
The days seem like weeks to me.
Old Peasant and the Young Man with a Cornflower
Sleeping in his bed, feeling the exact amount of pain Vincent felt, Armand encounters him in a dream, gasping for air and wandering off into the white light.
Waking up, out smoking he finds the Young Man with a Cornflower (from Vincent’s painting) hurling stones at him. He chases him down to end up in a barn.
The curiosity of Vincent’s death takes Armand to the fields as he tries to retrace the last day as was spent by Vincent. He once again bumps into the young man with the cornflower chasing him yet again. This time he encounters an Old Peasant who apologizes for the young man’s behavior, telling him the young man was his nephew and didn’t mean any harm.
It is from the peasant that Armand gathers that the barn Armand had visited the night before was actually where Vincent had been shot, and not as some had claimed, in the fields.
Talks about how he had found the pistol to shoot himself gave away that the pistol could have been very well that of Doctor Gachet or Ravoux. With the housekeeper writing it off as Ravoux’s and Adeline writing it off by saying they had sold it before Vincent was shot, a new development happens when The Boatman reveals that it was Rene Secretan (Marcin Sosinski) who was the buyer of that gun.
Rene was one of those young lads Vincent hung around with. Infuriated for something Rene had said to Vincent, Armand asks why the boatman didn’t smack the lad. To which he replies:
It wasn’t my business. It wasn’t my fight.
Armand is boiling with the fact that something could have been done, and it wasn’t done. You stand for your friends no matter what. That’s what he believed in. If the boatman would have stood for Vincent, he might not have been dead, so he thought.
What are Friends For?
But the Boatman is right when he says if Vincent didn’t want to stay in the company of the young, he could have simply left, but he chose to hang around maybe because Rene would always get the tab (insinuates financially instability once again).
Armand is disappointed in all the people who called themselves Vincent’s friends and he lays it on the poor boatman. The boatman counteracts by saying, what did Armand do for Vincent?
The Boatman: Were you such a great friend?
Armand: I never said I was.
Pissed off by those who bully others, because of how Rene bullied Vincent, Armand takes a stand for the Young man with a cornflower and gets into a fight with some hooligans who were bullying him. Waking up he realizes that he had socked even Gendarme Rigaumon who had come to restore peace.
Vincent generated more letters than a town.
Rigaumon tells him about a certain Doctor Mazery (Bill Thomas) who had pestered Rigaumon to file his report. Meeting Mazery it becomes clear to Armand that it wasn’t suiciding after all. Mazery goes into the details of how suicides generally entail people shooting themselves either on the head or through the temple.
Most likely he was shot.
Doctor Mazery’s theory clearly suggested that Vincent was shot from a distance since it was impossible to shoot yourself up point blank range and not have the bullet go through you. He enacts a whole scenario to prove how he must have been shot.
It is quite clear with that Vincent wasn’t the one holding the gun.
Back at The Fields
Lost in contemplation, Armand’s thoughts are broken by Marguerite Gachet who emerges into the fields.
I was thinking how come you lied if you have got nothing to hide?
Marguerite breaks the bubble by filling Armand with the details.
The truth is I am not important. He wasn’t some lovelorn teenager.
She tells him about her father Doctor Gachet, a wannabe artist who tried to be one all his life. It bothered Gachet that a man like Vincent who had just started painting two years ago was painting so well whilst he still struggled with it. He would copy Vincent’s paintings in his room trying to reiterate what was painted.
Gachet believed that Vincent was not to be distracted and often asked Marguerite to leave so as to stop her from becoming an obstacle to the creation of masterpieces.
Vincent and Gachet had a terrible row once for which Marguerite believed she was the cause.
Maybe my withdrawal had soured things.
To which Armand replies:
You are not to blame. You have no part in it.
Armand so far truly believes that it was Rene who had shot Vincent, as all the evidence suggested. Marguerite replies:
So lonely Vincent resorts to hanging around with drunken teenagers and he gets shot. Or he shoots himself in despair at his lonely life. The result is the same.
And what she says is so true if you listen to her carefully. You can’t change what has happened. The resultant eventuality cannot be deterred. The death has happened, his life has been taken. You can’t do anything about it now.
To Armand’s obstinacy about finding the culprit at any cost, she says:
You want to know so much about his death, but what do you know of his life?
Armand just knew that Vincent tried really hard to fit in, to prove that he was good at something. That’s when Marguerite explains why she chooses to take flowers at his grave. Because she knew that Vincent appreciated it, even the beauty in triviality.
No detail of life was too small or too humble for him. He appreciated and loved it all.
Finally, Armand gets to meet Doctor Gachet in person in Loving Vincent. As he is about to take the letter from Armand’s hand, questions begin to roll out from a well-researched Armand’s mouth. It is time to hear the truth.
Doctor Gachet explains that Vincent was a victim of melancholia.
Sufferers can change from feeling life is a wondrous joy to being stuck in a pit of despair within six hours.
There are counter statements to everything Armand lays on the table. He begins to understand that Vincent was lonely. That there was a mask Vincent would wear at times to stay joyous, but deep down things were different.
Underneath he was deeply afraid of the future of his own and Theo’s.
Vincent felt he was trouble for Theo since the latter was paying his bills, even as Theo supported his vision. He was becoming a liability owing to his dream. Theo could have had a great life had he not spent money on Vincent all those years.
He knew Theo had spent a small fortune on him. The knowledge of this tore into Vincent.
The fact that Vincent wasn’t able to provide anything in return broke his heart. He had how Gachet put it:
Rooms full of paintings that no one wanted to buy.
Gachet looked into the soul of Vincent to read him properly.
Vincent’s biggest fear was that the burden of him would bring down his brother.
Gachet shuts off Armand’s belief of Vincent being shot (the Mazery theory) by saying it was Vincent, the bloke who always did the improbable. That it was highly likely Vincent had shot himself. On furthering the queries, like this one:
Why would he say there’s no one to blame unless he thought someone might be blamed?
The Truth Behind the Suicide
Gachet reveals the real truth then. That Vincent was trying to save Gachet if fingers were to point at him for the suicide.
I think he took his life to try and save Theo because of something I had said.
They were in an argument where Vincent called Gachet an artistic fraud, since he wanted to be an artist, but he ended up studying medicine because he could never stand up to his father.
Vincent said I was living a lie whilst he lived and struggled for the truth.
Furious at what he had said, Gachet was forced to slip in a piece of harsh truth. That Theo was suffering from Syphilis, and that any sort of mental or financial stress would kill him.
What do you think the burden of worrying about you is doing to your brother? It’s quite likely killing him. That is the price of your truth, the price of your path as an artist. Is it worth it?
Those harsh lines were it. Vincent turned around and left, as Gachet realized his big mistake. He didn’t know then that Vincent would do something so huge like taking his life.
Maybe it is better for everyone.
We see a shattered Gachet on Vincent’s deathbed. There are so many thoughts that are going through his head. Had he not said something so bitter, Vincent would have been alive and painting.
Words can really kill people. If it is a real loss of talent, it hurts everyone. Crippled by the situation and marred by a financial crisis, Vincent slipped into the arms of death. He didn’t want to be any trouble, and taking his life felt to him the only way he could have seen to it.
A Letter for a Letter
As a parting note in Loving Vincent, Gachet offers Armand one of Vincent’s letters from the time he had started his journey to become an artist. This is what the letter contained:
Who am I in the eyes of most people? A nobody, a non-entity, an unpleasant person. Someone who has not, and never will have any position in society. In short, the lowest of the low. Well then, even if that were all absolutely true, then one day I will have to show by my work what this nobody, this non-entity has in his heart.
There’s a little discussion by the end of Loving Vincent movie between the Roulins. The father and the son have a chat about Armand failing to land a job. Armand says he was asked by Lieutenant Milliet (Robin Hodges) to enlist since he could throw punches.
Armand: I am good at fighting, aren’t I?
Joseph: Roulin’s have always been that. The trick is to know what you are fighting for.
Joseph looks at the star and makes this amazing statement then.
There’s a whole other world up there. Something we get to gaze upon but don’t fully understand. It reminds me of him. It feels wrong all that life snuffed out because of a stupid accident.
Armand is more interested in the loving part instead.
What I am wondering is if people will appreciate what he did.
Will we revere Vincent for his work and not for taking his own life? Accident or not it doesn’t define Vincent. His work does. There should be immense veneration in us for that, and for the fact that how artists like him struggle to follow their dreams owing to hindrances like Vincent faced.
Vincent’s Final Letter
In the end, Jo writes to Armand touched by his acts after successfully receiving the letter from Gachet. She made a copy of the letter by Vincent that Armand had been carrying around all this time. It was only fair for him to read after he had done so much.
This is what the letter contained:
In the life of the painter, death may perhaps not be the most difficult thing. For myself, I declare I don’t know anything about it. But, the sight of the stars always makes me dream. Why I say to myself should those spots of light in the firmament bet inaccessible to us? Maybe we can take death to go to a star and to die peacefully of old age would be to go there on foot. For the moment, I am going to go to bed because it’s late, and I wish you goodnight and good luck with a handshake, your loving Vincent.
The Bitter Truth
Loving Vincent Movie’s final gavel drops with the following statement that reads itself on the ending placard.
In the 8 years between starting to paint and his death, Vincent painted over 800 paintings, only one of which was sold in his lifetime.
Isn’t that tragic?
It literally rips you apart when you think of it. How unfortunate was the poor artist! How unfortunate, many of us are! Trying to be heard all our lives, but no one is listening. All we find are deaf ears and blind eyes who can neither hear or see the work we do.
Vincent was posthumously proclaimed the father of modern art. The bloke was ahead of his time. It only makes you wonder if death’s the only thing that does you justice. That name and fame always end up staying behind. Nobody gets what they need, then what’s the point?
If you are an artist you are probably thinking, what of my time? All that I have invested will that be rewarded after I pass away? How is it fair?
You can order Loving Vincent movie from here:
The Illusion of a Real Camera in Loving Vincent
It is hard not to notice how the directors of Loving Vincent, Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman chose to showcase paintings as if they were shot on a real camera. Right from the effortless panning movement to zooming in from a distance, it all feels as if a camera found its way back to Vincent’s historical leaflet.
If that weren’t enough the sound department does an equally fine job, giving us an illusion that there indeed is a camera.
For instance, the very first scene that celebrates Vincent’s enormously famous painting The Starry Night. The frame seems to pan over the city literally bringing the painting alive. As it proceeds to meet the protagonist we could clearly hear the low whirring of insects and birds nestled in the tree from The Starry Night. As we proceed towards the sound of the city brimming with people’s talk, you could hear that whirring noise fade in the backdrop. I mean how careful is that! You can’t appreciate the sound editing and mixing enough.
Then the paintings have painstaking detail in them. Like they don’t even leave out the reflection of a man in a window pane. They have even captured the illusion of wind, smoke, clouds, shadows, reflections on water, of the tiniest of movements. How eyes look when they roll, how the shadows find their way into people’s faces when the light is falling from behind. How different people look when they are moving. The detailing is just magnificently meticulous.
All the memories in Loving Vincent have been done in black and white and they look absolutely stunning. They are simply pressed against reality.
The Extraordinary Music of Loving Vincent
Before I end this incessant ranting of admiration, I will take a moment to admire Clint Mansell’s extraordinary music. It gives you goosebumps. They have been beautifully composed and so well placed they are!
You are compelled to sway with the scene. That’s what true talent should make you do. To take you inside the movie to make you connect and relate. Loving Vincent movie does that owing to Mansell’s beautiful compositions.
You can listen to one of my favourites here:
The Final Verdict
Loving Vincent movie is literally the epitome of art itself. It is a brilliant tribute to one of the finest artists the world has ever seen. To those who don’t know him, it is a perfect way to get acquainted. I highly recommend watching Loving Vincent to understand, know and revere the guy who was way ahead of his time.
If you like the Loving Vincent analysis and review, please check out our other movie analyses