"I will not live without love." ~Vincent van Gogh
The story of Vincent van Gogh's life seems best told in his own words, complete with casual sketches, detailed drawings and famous paintings. In the spirit of "Crows" in Akira Kurosawa's Dreams (where we see the Langlois Bridge and Crows in the Wheatfields brought to life), we are entertained by visions of painting after painting. It is fun to watch Akira Kurosawa's Dreams after viewing this movie because then you recognize the paintings that were brought to life in a dream of pure visual delight.
The Café Terrace, Yellow House, Fishing Boats, Bedroom at Arles, Starry Night and Sunflowers are some of the paintings featured, but there is an entire world of Vincent van Gogh's art that is introduced with analytical letters written to his brother. In these letters he tells his brother of the art he is working on and his motivating influences all while we the viewer are entertained with the art, scenes from nature and the acting out of various scenes (Night Café with Pool Table) that eventually became paintings. There are fields of olive trees from Olive Trees 1889 and Vincent's letter speaks of the difficulty of capturing the colors in the soil and tree bark.
When you hear the story of Vincent van Gogh's life in his own words, suddenly he becomes so much more than a famous artist. His life is filled with tragedy and hardship, but he is also able to find stunning beauty through his love of philosophy and his view of the world seems to remain relatively positive right up until his death. He not only travels, he also lives with Gauguin. The art shown after living with Gauguin shows how being able to relate to someone like himself increased his creativity.
He speaks of how he is a self-taught artist and how thankful he is that he was not trained and therefore had to experiment with paint to produce eye-catching effects. As he travels, his world expands and so does his art. He tries to capture his experience in 1,800 works during his life and while they can't all be shown in this movie, the director tries to capture as many beautiful scenes and pieces of art as he can in as many ways film allows. The creativity is delightful as actors take their places and then a picture emerges.
"How lovely yellow is." ~Vincent van Gogh
He seems far from debilitating madness in his letters (he talks about episodes) and more inclined towards deep contemplations and philosophical discussions. He seems to be reaching out to a world that does not quite understand him all while trying to make the lives of those around him less lonely.
The movie begins with his lofty spiritual goals and ends with his death. We learn so much about this artist, of his being homesick for the land of pictures and how he felt compelled to capture the daily activities of the peasants.
The goodness in his heart truly shines through the darkness of his later days as he helps a woman most would have shunned and must live without the love of the woman he wanted to marry.
Through a weaving of philosophy and art, Paul Cox created a stunning and somewhat mesmerizing journey through the life of Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890). I watched both the movie and the interview three times because the thoughts and experiences are so compelling. Of all the movies I've seen on an artist's life, this is my favorite. What makes this truly memorable are the letters from Vincent to Theo read eloquently by John Hurt.
After watching this, you may find yourself looking for a book about Vincent van Gogh's art or his letters in order to find some of the art shown in this movie or to expand your knowledge of his writing and philosophy. While many emphasize the madness, this movie emphasizes the struggle for beauty and the unending desire of the artist to capture all that he loves.
~The Rebecca Review