One of Akira Kurosawa’s last films, 1990’s Dreams, saw the Japanese master stretching out into more personal territory. A collection of short pieces based on the director’s dreams, one of these episodes, “Crows,” shows us a young Kurosawa surrogate who wanders from a gallery of Van Gogh’s paintings and into the French countryside Van Gogh painted. The addition of Martin Scorsese as a voluble, Brooklyn-accented Van Gogh adds a quirky touch, but there’s something a little disappointing about the move from the paintings to their referent. When people ask, after all, “what must it have been like to have seen the world through Vincent van Gogh’s eyes?” they seem to assume the painter saw reality in same the swirling, writhing, riotously-colored motion as his paintings.
It's true the beleaguered Dutch artist had problems with his vision, due to lead poisoning and temporal lobe epilepsy. But what we really want to experience is seeing the world not as Van Gogh saw it but as he painted it. And as we shared last year, we’ll soon have a chance thanks to an incredible animated feature film project called Loving Vincent by Dorota Kobiela and High Welchman. “Every frame of Loving Vincent,” wrote our editor Dan Colman, “will be an oil painting on canvas, created with the same techniques Van Gogh used over a century ago.” The filmmakers have since released an official trailer for the film, which you can see at the top of the post, and a making-of short, which you can watch just above. The artists we see hard at work in studios in Greece made a total of 65,000 individual oil paintings for the film, in color and black-and-white, many of which you can see—and purchase—at the Loving Vincent website.
The painters drew their inspiration from live action performances by actors like Douglas Booth, Saoirse Ronan, and Aidan Turner, which were then digitally enhanced with computer animated “elements such as birds, horses, clouds and blowing leaves.” The 125 “painting animators,” as the film’s site calls them, transformed “this reference material into Vincent van Gogh’s painting style,” then re-created “the movement of the shot through animating each brushstroke.” It’s a phenomenal achievement that painter Piotr Dominiak above says gave him “goosebumps” when he saw it. The handful of painters interviewed above—from all over Europe—are passionate about Van Gogh. Few of them are professional artists. Dominiak worked as a cook before joining the project. Sarah Campos worked as a Spanish teacher, and Waldek Wesolowski restored old cars.
From start to finish, Loving Vincent has—like its subject’s body of work—been a labor of love (watch a behind-the-scenes short above). But this one came together on the internet. The filmmakers began funding with a Kickstarter campaign several years ago, and most of the artists were recruited through their website. Given the incredible results in what we've seen so far, we can expect to enter Van Gogh’s creative vision in a way we could only dream about before. Learn much more about the project at the impressive Loving Vincent website.