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Framing Van Gogh

13 October, 2017 — By Dan Carrier

Robert Gulaczyk in Loving Vincent

Directed by Hugh Welchman and Dorota Kobiela
Certificate: PG

DID Vincent Van Gogh shoot himself in the stomach? Why did he choose this fairly bizarre way to kill himself? And what drove him to be in such misery to see this as an answer to his problems?

Or was the injury, that would lead to his death two days after it was inflicted the work of someone else?

These questions are at the heart of this frankly bizarre Polish film, which has used a brilliant technique of shooting actors then colouring in each frame with oil paints to give the viewer the sensation that they are stepping into a picture by the Dutch painter.

The idea that maybe Vince didn’t kill himself came to light back in 2011 in a biography by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White, which suggested he was hit by a bullet fired by a boozed-up teenager called Rene Secretan. This chap liked to drink heavily and stumble about dressed as a cowboy with a loaded pistol – and it appears Vincent spent time hanging out with him.

Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth) is sent from the south of France by his father, a postman (Chris O’Dowd), to find out more about the death of his friend. And it sets him off to becoming a reluctant detective as he begins to find out that there are big questions unanswered over Van Gogh’s apparent suicide.

This film has lots to admire. The technique used is pretty fabulous, if at first quite hard on the eye as the oils swirl round mimicking Van Gogh’s trademark style.

The directors employed more than 100 oil painters to create this. And that, you feel, is the fundamental reason for its existence – not to air an interesting and basically inconclusive theory about the artist’s final days, but to celebrate and revel in his style as the father of Modernism.

One gripe is the uneven use of British and Irish regional accents by the actors. At times it just felt odd, like it needed too much of a leap of the imagination. It would have been a more fulfilling experience if this had been a Franco-Polish, rather than Anglo-Polish production. It may seem curmudgeonly but a Yorkshire accent on the daughter of a French doctor in a rural 1800s setting undermined the feel and vibe created by the amazing visuals.


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