The Mysterious Death of Vincent Van Gogh to Be Explored in First Oil Paint Animated Film

The film will be made up of over 55,000 hand-painted frames.

Courtesy of Loving Vincent and Breakthu Productions.

A new film is being made about Vincent van Gogh’s enigmatic life—and death—and once completed, it will be the world’s first feature-length oil painted animation.

Oscar-winning companies Breakthru Films and Trademark Films have gathered a team of 30 painters in charge of oil painting more than 55,000 frames to complete the 80-minute long movie, titled Loving Vincent.

The film is directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Hugh Welchman, whose animated film Peter and the Wolf received wide acclaim in 2008. Welchman actually got the idea for this new movie from his wife Dorota Kobiela, an animator who studied painting in Warsaw.

Van Gogh’s death was ruled a suicide, as he shot himself in the stomach and died one day later due to infection. However, many questions remain unanswered, due to the troubled nature of the artist, and the lack of prior warnings or suggestions leading to the suicide and documentation from physicians.

Through its plethora of painted frames, the film seeks to investigate the mysterious suicide of Vincent Van Gogh by using information gathered from biographies and personal letters, which the artist wrote himself and left behind after his death.

Its narrative begins one year after Van Gogh’s death, and follows an investigative plotline by focusing on interviews with people close to the artist and flashbacks from his life.

Of the 4,000 painters who applied to work on the film, the small chosen group of 30 received extensive training, as they had to adhere to specific painting style: split between past and present, flashbacks are painted entirely in black and white, while the rest of the film follows van Gogh’s signature colorful style—even including scenes depicting some of Van Gogh’s most classic paintings, such as Starry Night.

Flashbacks are painted in black and white. Courtesy of Loving Vincent and Breakthru Productions.

Flashbacks are painted in black and white. Courtesy of Loving Vincent and Breakthru Productions.

The team of 30 works in studios between Wroclaw, Gdansk, and Athens. While there is not much room for creative expression, the painters do have projections of each frame—made from footage of real actors—on their canvases so they can quickly and accurately match scene and facial expressions.

Though the film’s budget at the moment is set at the relatively modest sum of $5.6 million, the cost of this type of animation actually seems to be quite low, allowing some of the money to be used in other sectors of production.

While the Loving Vincent does not yet have a set distributor, they are reeling in some big names as voice actors for the film, including Saoirse Ronan and Jerome Flynn. The project should begin to wrap up around October and currently plans a release in spring 2017, the Observer reports.

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