When a piece of art is made with utmost dedication and love, it becomes breathtakingly and painfully beautiful. It lingers like a fragrance, an enchantment of the senses, a spell dominating the spirit, leaving the soul craving for more. I recently saw such a tribute of utmost adoration and I cannot get over the loveliness and the depth of what I witnessed.
Loving Vincent, the 2017 movie is an ambitious and brilliant depiction of the life, hope, struggle, and penultimate despair of the great painter, Vincent van Gogh. The motion picture illustrates the story of the painter in animated oil paintings – 853 paintings rendered in a modern artistic style by a team of 125 artists from around the globe.
This is the first fully animated movie made from start to finish using the technique of rotoscope. It was first filmed with actors and then each frame painted and animated to give a luxurious, larger-than-life motion picture in more than 65 thousand frames. Loving Vincent is an award-winning movie, and I couldn’t but notice the irony that in his quest for artistic success spanning 8 years, Vincent created over 800 paintings and only one was sold in his lifetime. Here, we have the last years of his life, devotedly painted in nearly the same number of canvases to create that one piece of dedication that attempts to understand the man, his art, and his anguish.
The screenplay of Loving Vincent is as enthralling as the colorful story it depicts. A postmaster’s son out to deliver Vincent’s last letter to his brother, Theo, is pulled into the story of the last days of the recluse painter and his unexplained death by suicide. From the time the initial credits roll in, you cannot but admire the exquisiteness that is slowly gathering a hold over you. Mesmerized you move from one frame to another. You are confused – do you admire the canvas or catch up with the story.
The dialogues are hushed into silence by the brush strokes – the quiver of the eyebrows, the shadow and light in the skin, in the hair, the cobbled streets, the detail in every dress, the red of the wine, and the blood! What do you see, what do you hear, what do you make of this sudden magical onslaught on your senses – the rush of so much beauty leaves you stunned.
Then, the nuances unfold, one frame at a time. The flashbacks are in black paintings and the current quest of the postmaster’s son is on colored canvas. There are intricate details – the light emanating from a lamp in the colored frame is flickering concentric circles, almost hypnotic; the black frames play with shadow and light and the lamp is surrounded by just a glow, quietly present.
Every blade of grass, the swish of the skirt, a wisp of smoke, the crunch of gravel are captured in exquisite brush strokes. The end credits are as captivating as the picturesque extravaganza of an hour and a half. The original soundtrack (OST) of Starry Starry Night by Lianne La Havas, slowly draws you out of the trance, placing you back into the real world, gently but not without a trembling lip, a wet eye. You just watched a movie that will stay with you for a long time.
While I really wanted to gush about the movie, I also wanted to dwell on my thoughts regarding the fate of artists. I wonder if most artists have to spend a lifetime, misjudged and anguished. Is it the destiny of the artist to see want and pain, be unheard and denied, before they capture the divinity of their tormented soul in art? Does pain bring out beauty or all things of beauty betrothed to pain?
I have oft heard writers say that sorrow has brought forth their most meaningful and deep writings. Musicians, singers, dancers – their delicate performances feature love, longing, and despair! The quest of the muse – is it nothing but the pursual of agony – of that which cannot be possessed, can never be captured in completeness because it is flawed or too perfect; maybe the muse can never be found, or if found it is eventually lost to the ways of the mundane or to the restlessness of the artist.
I wonder what fellow writers and artists think about art being a product of an artist’s despair, his anguish. Is an artist always destined to have raging storms and dewy eyes? Are artists, writers, almost always ahead of their times, for acclaim comes posthumously, royalties and the monies going to estates, while the creator perished with the burden of being a nonproductive failure!
While I leave you with these thoughts and questions, I also wonder why no one has attempted another work of art like the movie Loving Vincent. Is the novelty gone out of the art form, or is it too expensive, or too much hard work? The men in this business would know but a similar project would surely be the encouragement and the engagement that many artists around the world seek. If you ask me, I would love to see a similar movie on Frida Kahlo. Imagine the kaleidoscopic color burst and the sensuous storyline!
In the graveyard of sin
Peace lies buried again
After dying a million deaths
With its bloodied comrades
Hope, faith, and harmony
The blazing fiend of hatred
Roams around naked
Feeding on the last fragment
Of another body burnt to dust
A bewildered soul hovers
Eyes awash with fading tears!
Prayers have lost their way
Melancholy clouds sweep away
Even the incessant rain
Cannot wash away the stain
Of the blood of innocents
Unheard, unwanted, undead
From an ochre land of depravity
The burning pyre of humanity
Our Earth is now parched
Throttled with rust and dust
What elixir will quench its thirst?
The contagion of hatred
Flows in their veins, unabated
The rulers and their courtiers
And their blistering madness
Hardened hearts, spreading fear
Reigning with violent terror
Pieces of white, pale as death
Kings, slaves, on a chessboard set
Men fleeting, floating, drowning
Somewhere a child washed ashore
A broken doll with owner no more!
Listless hearts pound
In time with the funeral band
Wails and howls, rend the skies
Laments fail, fall on deaf ears
Lost in the screaming headlines
Carnage, pillage, blinding pellets
Flaming fires of disharmony
Mowing down, blasting, bombing
Desperate, despondent, helpless
Humanity breathes its last
Broken, alone in a hospital bed!
Merchants of doom
Selling salves for the gloom
Twines that held together
Ripped, shredded, asunder
Pick up the fragile strands
Weave them into shrouds.
Questions galore resound
Will he live; Is he dead yet
None answer; eyes then wander
To the writing on the wall –
Clear, bold – Silence Please!
So we embrace the silence
Words lost in defiance
For we can never answer
Innocence of our children
Asking how to celebrate life
In this world of bloody strife
How to eradicate this misery
Heal our wounded community
Pitted against each other, we seek
Promises of potions sweet
A sip from the chalice of Peace?