When I heard that they were making this film, I knew immediately that I had to see it. I’ve been a fan of Van Gogh my entire life, and in fact The Starry Night is my favourite painting of all time. But the moment I officially became obsessed with him was when I watched Vincent and the Doctor, in my opinion the greatest Doctor Who episode of all time.
Loving Vincent is not only the story of the life of Vincent Van Gogh, but also the circumstances surrounding his death. Officially, he committed suicide. However, there have always been rumours that he was shot by someone else and just told everyone he shot himself so no one else took the blame.
But what truly sets the film apart is that it is the first one to be entirely animated through paintings. It consists of over 65,000 frames, every single one of them an oil painting in the style of Van Gogh himself. Not sure what I mean? Here is the trailer:
Not only is the story fascinating, the visuals are unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. To be honest, this is the perfect way to tell his story. All of his paintings come alive, because everything he painted was inspired by actual people and places. In fact, Armand Roulin is the main character. Armand was the subject of some of Van Gogh’s paintings. His whole family was.
I feel that Vincent’s story is a very important one to share, because it’s a very relatable story of mental illness, depression, and suicide. He may, in fact, be the most relatable historical figure. That Doctor Who episode really helps to make him feel like a modern figure. As though if he were alive today he’d have had a better life. Not that he wouldn’t still be depressed, just that there’s now treatment for it. Back when he lived, he was just considered “mad” and everyone picked on him. Which, naturally, didn’t help his depression.
At the beginning of this post I linked to a scene from the Doctor Who episode “Vincent and the Doctor”. The following contains spoilers for that episode. For context, Amy Pond (the Doctor’s companion at the time) wanted to save Vincent from killing himself. She feels that if he knows how important he is in the present time, he wouldn’t kill himself. Van Gogh never knew he was famous, because that didn’t happen until after his death. So the Doctor uses the TARDIS to bring him to the present (when the video begins) to show him that all of his artwork is on display where all of the greatest works of art is, given it’s own special room. It’s the most crowded room in the museum. The Doctor has the curator (played by Bill Nighy in an uncredited role) talk about how important Vincent was to history, which obviously brings him to tears of joy.
The beauty of the episode, and the reason I feel it’s one of the greatest episodes of the show, is that despite their efforts, Vincent still kills himself. Amy is confused, and the Doctor stresses that they can’t undo all the bad in the world.
Basically, depression isn’t as simple as “Oh, I’m happy now, I’m all better”. Vincent was penniless and (at the time) hated by almost everyone who knew him. You’d think that’s why he committed suicide. So why did Robin Williams do it? He’s the complete opposite. extremely successful and loved by all. He had four films released after his death. Vincent’s suicide makes sense from a logical point of view, so why did Robin Williams do it?
The answer is that depression isn’t logical. Everything could be going right in your life, and yet you still have this dark cloud over you that you just can’t explain or understand. You could be surrounded by everyone and yet feel like you are alone on a deserted island.
This is why I feel it is important for this story to be told.
If You Know Someone in Crisis. Call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) at 1-800-273-8255, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available to everyone. The deaf and hard of hearing can contact the Lifeline via TTY at 1-800-799-4889.