"Loving Vincent" Review by Ashley Lo Russo

Loving Vincent is a must-see for every painter, animator, and artist. This is the first feature-length painted animation film about the Dutch Post-Impressionist painter, Vincent Van Gogh. Directors, Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman decided that the best way to tell the story was by using a combination of live action sequences with visual effects and CG animation as reference for the final frames, each of which is an individual oil painting. The rotoscope technique (tracing frame by frame over the reference material) was used to compile more than 65,000 oil painted frames, which were created by over 100 artists. Loving Vincent also references Van Gogh’s paintings as a backdrop to help support the painter’s life story.

The plot follows the journey of Armand Roulin, who delivers a letter to Van Gogh’s brother living in Auvers-sur-Oise, after hearing Vincent had committed suicide. Suspicion around Van Gogh’s death rises as Roulin interviews the people who were close to Van Gogh. Through these interviews, Van Gogh’s struggle with his mental illness is revealed, however no one is certain if he was depressed, had anxiety or had bipolar disorder. In Van Gogh’s time, mental health was not an understood subject, as it is today. Loving Vincent did a great job at raising mental illness awareness and causing one to reflect on the subject.

Any animator will tell you that rotoscope is no easy task; especially the more frames you trace per second. Loving Vincent had an incredible sense of smoothness and movement due to the way the animation artists carefully pushed the oil paint around for each of the frames. Even the more static scenes had paint twinkling in the background.

The visuals helped carry the story through the use of colour, tone and movement. Black and white sequences throughout the movie were effective in the way they represented Van Gogh’s past. Van Gogh’s colour palette and the way he painted had to be replicated by the oil painters making each of the animated frames.  The consistency of Van Gogh’s replicated style throughout the film is remarkable, especially considering the artists had to keep it consistent over the entire 6 months of production time during which they were painting.

Rotoscope is a tedious, time-consuming technique that requires a lot of patience and attention to complete. Loving Vincent is truly a labour of love that celebrates Van Gogh’s life.

Knowing that this film started out as a failed Kickstarter campaign is inspiring, because it proves that an idea can sprout far and wide and grow into something that becomes a staple in animation history. Loving Vincent breathes life back into the timeline of rotoscoped feature length films. The timeline continues after Scanner Darkly and Waking Life, which were the last major rotoscoped films. Furthermore, Loving Vincent sets itself apart due to its individually painted frames and potentially opens the door to the possibility that more feature length films can be made this way.


If you are interested in learning more about process behind this film, check out "Loving Vincent - Making Of" below.