“Loving Vincent,” The World’s First Oil-Painted Feature Film, Is Here (And It’s Stunning)

The world’s first feature film illustrated completely in oil paint is here…and, fittingly, it’s all about Vincent Van Gogh.

Loving Vincent brings Vincent Van Gogh’s death—and the more mysterious bits surrounding his life—to life, through the medium which he is most known for. The film is one hour and thirty-five minutes of exclusively oil-painted illustration, in stunning and near-miraculous detail. Within the story, set at the time of Van Gogh’s death, viewers learn just how badly Van Gogh strove to be a critically-acclaimed artist…and just how underappreciated he was in his own time. As the film explores the mysterious circumstances surrounding the artist’s death, it also brings Van Gogh the dignity and critical attention he never received in his lifetime as it brings a story painted entirely in his style and many of his paintings to life onscreen.

Produced by Poland’s BreakThru Films and the UK’s Trademark Films, the film “brings the paintings of Vincent van Gogh to life to tell his remarkable story.” Written and directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, Loving Vincent does so through 65,000 frames of hand-painted oil paintings—painstakingly created by 125 oil painters who traveled to studios in Poland and Greece from across the globe to lend their talents to the production.

You can take a look at the trailer below to get a glimpse of how the film looks:

Pretty cool, right? It’s hard to imagine that each frame was so carefully created after seeing the finished product. But this masterpiece took years—over five, to be exact—and hundreds to artists to complete. As the project progressed, filmmakers realized that they would need more hands on deck in addition to the large number of Polish painters already working on the project. (the primary studio is in Gdansk). They then turned to recruiting painters from around the world and brought in 45 from the 5,000 applications they’d received, as we learned in a video created for the BBC.

This BBC video explores the intricate process of just how one goes about putting together a feature film comprised of all oil paintings on canvas. Here’s a quick summary, but you’ll want to watch to get a feel for just how intricate the process is and just how hard these artists worked to create such a stunning film. Here’s how the process played out below:

  1. Actors are filmed on green screen in costume, acting out the scenes.
  2. The action is turned into black-and-white outlines and projected onto artists’ boards.
  3. Artists then paint in the full scene with oil paints on canvas, using pictures & Van Gogh references to help them create the scene. As you’ll see, each scene is created in the style of a typical Van Gogh painting.
  4. Artists then photograph the finished painting.
  5. The photographs of the paintings are edited together to create the finished whole.

Though an all-star cast (including Saoirse Ronan, Helen McCrory, and Aidan Turner) helps to create the story, the spotlight, as the BBC video pointed out, truly is on the art, the artists who created each frame, and on Van Gogh himself.

Of the film, Director Amy Scherschligt says “the movie was terrific! The animated scenery was entirely made from oil paintings and was a feast for the eyes. Many familiar paintings and portraits came to life! It was very colorful, as you can imagine. The story line was engrossing; the main character was seeking the truth about Vincent’s death. The parts about the past events were rendered in black and white! I will definitely see this again! It’s one of those movies you HAVE to see on the big screen.”

Loving Vincent poster art. Image c/o Loving Vincent.

The rest of us agree: if you’re looking for a film that celebrates art and artists, both living and dead, Loving Vincent is just the movie for you.

Discover all about Loving Vincent at the film’s website, and find a showing near you today!

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