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Laura Blum


Laura is a festival correspondent covering films and the festival circuit for filmfestivals.com. She also publishes on Thalo

 


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“Loving Vincent”: A Conversation with Directors Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman

Who hasn’t looked at Vincent van Gogh’s masterpiece Starry Night and felt the brushstrokes swirl? Like many of the Dutch artist’s oils, the dabs of color rolling around the stars and moon give an illusion of movement. Now along comes Loving Vincent to wrestle that cinematic quality into a feature film.

Despite the vibrant palette, the story shades noir. Using van Gogh’s paintings to sleuth out the murky circumstances surrounding his alleged suicide, it unfolds through interviews with the subjects he so viscerally portrayed.  

The story of how Loving Vincent was made is as dramatic as the work itself. Directed by Polish painter/filmmaker Dorota Kobiela (Little PostmanThe Flying Machine) and her husband, producer Hugh Welchman (Peter and the Wolf), the production brought together 125 painters to make what is being touted as “the world’s first fully painted feature animation.”

All told, they remade more than 120 of van Gogh’s most celebrated paintings. Similarly, the narrative draws on the Post-Impressionist icon’s writings, a trove of some 800 hand-scrawled letters. “We cannot speak other than by our paintings,” he noted in his last letter before his death. “Those were the words that literally inspired the whole idea,” Kobiela tells me in a three-way sit-down during her and Welchman’s recent trip to New York.

What was it about van Gogh and his turbulent story that initially compelled Kobiela? She recalls her own encounter with depression while a student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. “I was working very intensely and I wanted to prove that I can do everything, but at some point, you realize you’ve sort of failed in your plans.” The Polish lilt in her voice adds to a sense of lingering introspection.

“As I was struggling with my own situation, I started reading van Gogh’s letters,” Kobiela muses. Those letters, along with the writings of Danish thinker Søren Kierkegaard, informed her master’s thesis about the relationship between art and mental health.” In particular, she wanted to crack, “What influences what?”

That line of questioning still intrigued Kobiela when she later set out to make an animated short about van Gogh’s life. The overlaps with her own story, I suggest, must have lent added resonance to the feature-length project it ultimately became. They have.

Full story here:

http://www.thalo.com/articles/view/1333/loving_vincent_interview_with_directors_dorota

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