Huddled on the couches and the floor of the Fine Arts house, students gathered on the evening of October 12 to watch the 2017 award-winning film Loving Vincent, which retells the story of the beloved painter Vincent Van Gogh.
After four years in production and the collaboration of more than 125 artists, Loving Vincent stands as the first-ever fully hand-painted animated feature film. With the events portrayed in Van Gogh’s signature aesthetic, the riveting narrative draws audiences into a more immersive experience dedicated to one of the most well-known artists of all time.
The film follows Armand Roulin, the son of Van Gogh’s postman Joseph Roulin, one year after the artist’s death. As he ventures out to deliver Van Gogh’s final letter to his younger brother Theo, Roulin learns more about the artist’s life and, ultimately, the events leading to his untimely death, which remains a mystery even today. Roulin travels to Paris and begins to investigate the death of Van Gogh through various interviews with those who knew him in his final months.
Many of the people Roulin meets along the way are Van Gogh’s more famous portrait subjects, including his physician Dr. Paul Gachet and Adeline Ravoux, the young proprietress of the inn where Van Gogh died.
Nearly every scene’s background showcases his other works like “Night on the Cafe Terrace,” “Wheatfield with Crows,” “Rowing Boats on the Banks of the Oise,” “The Church in Auvers-sur-Oise,” and, of course, “Starry Night.” With the portrait subjects brought to life over the landscapes, Loving Vincent depicted the best and worst of Van Gogh’s life through the timeless depictions of his art.
As those in attendance recognized their favorite works, awestruck gasps and excited whispers passed over the audience and the film showing turned into a way to celebrate the legacy Van Gogh left behind.
As the song “Starry Starry Night” faded away and the credits rolled, discussion turned to the mystery posed by the film and the ultimate question of Van Gogh’s death.
While the most widely accepted answer is that Van Gogh took his own life, the film suggests other possibilities. The primary suspect seemed to be a young boy named Rene Secretan, who was portrayed in the image of Van Gogh’s “Young Boy with Cornflower.” Secretan was known to torment the artist as he worked and to drunkenly wave around his gun, implying that perhaps he played a role in the death.
Many seemed to agree with the eccentric Dr. Mazery from the film that the location of the wound in the abdomen instead of the head or chest leaves some doubt that the gunshot was self-inflicted.
Caroline Nixon (C’20) noted that while the film’s explanation was something to consider, she wasn’t sure it convinced her that Van Gogh’s death was not a suicide.
Yet, regardless of Van Gogh’s cause of death, all seemed to agree that Van Gogh’s legacy lives on today, as showcased through the work and passion that went into the production of Loving Vincent.
Fine Arts house resident Cecile Denton (C’21) mentioned after the screening how pleased she was with the event. She noted, “The arts are scattered all around campus from the Tennessee Williams Center to the Nabit Art Gallery, and we really just wanted to bring all the arts together into a central location. We have a lot more planned, and we hope to see others continue to join us as they did tonight.”