It’s nearly impossible to think of starry nights, sunflowers or severed ears without envisioning the painted work of Vincent van Gogh.
The gifted and notoriously tortured artist, who lived from 1853 to 1890, dazzled the world with his unique strain of painting ― marked by bold brushstrokes that swirl and spin, yielding works that don’t mimic real life but instead render a totally new and wholly enchanting painted world.
It makes sense, then, that a film chronicling van Gogh’s tumultuous life and work would also not take place on Earth, but in the post-Impressionist aesthetic of the artist’s imagination. That’s right, “Loving Vincent,” the highly anticipated biopic directed by Polish painter Dorota Kobiela and filmmaker Hugh Welchman, will be the first entirely painted feature film.
After a trailer advertising the project was released in March and quickly went viral, artists from all over the world applied for the chance to relocate to Poland and take part in the painstaking process of translating a life into a stream of brushstrokes. The chosen few were then trained extensively to master van Gogh’s skillful stroke.
Over 120 of van Gogh’s beloved paintings are the source material for the film, whose plot was constructed from over 800 handwritten letters by the artist himself. The comprehensive filming process begins with actors performing scenes in front of green screens or sets specially designed to look like van Gogh paintings.
A team of animators use reference material (made from live-action images plus some computer animation) as the starting point for their work. Their challenge is, of course, to translate still painting into fluid film, reconstructing every frame of live-action footage into van Gogh’s signature style. Every movement captured on film must correspond with an animated brushstroke, and that’s no easy feat — especially as there are 64,500 frames in the film.
The “Loving Vincent” team recently sent The Huffington Post nine behind-the-scenes looks at their ambitious process, showing how live-action moments metamorphose into living paintings. In the brief clips provided, viewers can watch as actors shift into post-Impressionist paintings that move and breathe with shocking verisimilitude. Watching them feels like diving straight into the imagination of one of art history’s most beguiling and pivotal creative minds.
Which is all to say, we cannot wait until this movie comes out. In the meantime, we’ll be watching these clips, again and again (and again).