Oddly enough, I don’t remember which painting it was, but I will never forget the way it felt to stand for the first time in front of an original Van Gogh at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. In some ways it was a disorienting experience. I recall becoming light-headed as if the colors & textures on canvas were alive and in perpetual motion. This phenomenon proved to be no fluke as I found in subsequent opportunities to view his work in person again years later at the VMFA’s Art of the Flower exhibition and again during a first visit to the Art Institute of Chicago.
I am sure I am far from being alone in being so viscerally affected by the vibrancy of Van Gogh’s work. In fact, there is now a stunning new film that goes so far as to literally bring many of the his paintings to life even as it purports to tell the story of the events leading to his tragic early death. Written & directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, their animated film Loving Vincent was meticulously hand-painted by a team of 115 artists.
“Loving Vincent is the upcoming biographical animated film from newcomer directors Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman about Vincent van Gogh’s final days and the attempt by an acquaintance of his son (played by Douglas Booth) to unravel the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death. A film unlike any other, it is entirely hand painted – each of the movie’s 65,000 frames is an oil painting on a canvas created using the same techniques as Vincent van Gogh.”
Of the film composers who might be up to matching the drama of this story and the unparalleled artistry of its presentation, it is hard to imagine a better choice than Clint Mansell (The Fountain, Moon, Black Swan) as the glorious soundtrack soon to be released by Milan Records demonstrates. A master at using minimal resources to generate cinematic scope, Mansell’s score for Loving Vincent is dizzying in its own way, bursting with sonic colors and replete with evocative scene-setting cues even as it resonates with the powerful, conflicting forces at play in the narrative from tension and suspense to passion and beauty.
Still anxiously awaiting for a showing to reach my area, I found spending time with the album only whetted my appetite all the more to see the film. Each track references one of Van Gogh’s famous works and, perhaps not unsurprisingly, it is the tenderest ones that become the most endearing, at least without the benefit of being able to visualize the associated moments. Particular highlights in this regard include the haunting melancholy of “At Eternity’s Gate”, the mellifluous waltz of “Marguerite Gachet at the Piano”, and the sumptuous, effusive theme that blossoms forth in “Five Sunflowers In a Vase” and is movingly reprised during “The Sower With the Setting Sun”. One can imagine this music coupled with faithful oil renderings of the original paintings set into motion will be nothing less than sublime and deeply affecting.
Milan Records will be releasing the soundtrack digitally on September 22nd and on CD September 29th. It will also include a version of Don McClean’s “Starry Starry Night” featured in the end credits, produced by Mansell and performed by Lianne La Havas (Warner Bros). In addition to CD and digital releases, Loving Vincent will also be made available on vinyl with packaging designed by director Dorota Kobiela. The LP is pressed on a single 180g color vinyl featuring the entirety of Clint Mansell’s score housed in a striking dress jacket with interior sleeve featuring liner notes from Clint. The vinyl edition will be released on October 13th.