„Loving Vincent”, or made in Wrocław

The first animated painting film in history was made in Wrocław. The film was co-produced by the Wrocław City Office, CeTA Centre for Audiovisual Technology and Odra Film.

The mystery of Van Gogh's death

"Loving Vincent" tells a story about the life and death of Vincent van Gogh, one of the most ingenious Impressionist painters. “One late July van Gogh received a letter from his brother, who provided for his living. In the letter Theo described his financial difficulties. The news was believed to compel van Gogh to suicide. I’m sceptical, though. We tried to challenge the myth in the film," says Hugh Welchman, the film’s director.

As pretty as a picture

The film, which Welchman co-produced with Dorota Kobiela, is the first animated feature film in history to be fully painted.

This means that every single frame, 65 thousand of them composed into a film, was made in oil paining technique and, at least initially, on canvas. That’s why apart from producers, animated film artists or actors, the crew also comprised 100 painters, most of them holding a degree from the Academy of Fine Arts, a lot of them young and based in Wrocław.

New animation technology

All of the paintings, including van Gogh’s originals, were animated and made into a film with a unique technology called PAWS (Painting Animation Work Station), which combines traditional paining and animation.

"The technique, at least in theory, is like classical animation technique. However, given the scale of the project, we were not able to hire animated film painters. The reason is simple: there are too few of them in general, let alone those who could ideally imitated van Gogh."

Animated film artists find it difficult to fit in painterly shoes and understand a particular master and their technique. We found it easier to turn painters into animated film artists: To train them and make it easier to work with PAWS. The PAWS are but a tool, the technique itself being nothing new.

One thing is new, however, namely the massive scale of the project. No one has ever dared to paint a feature film before. “Loving Vincent" features 65 thousand frames painted by the artists who are the rightful contributors in our project," explains Dorota Kobiela, the film’s director.

Celebrated actors in historical roles

The figures depicted by the Dutch master are dubbed by a number of celebrated actors, including the Academy nominee Saoirse Ronan ("The Grand Budapest Hotel", "Atonement"), or Jerome Flynn (“Game of Thrones" and "Ripper Street").

Vincent van Gogh was dubbed by Robert Gulaczyk, a graduate from the Faculty of Puppet Theatre at the PWST Academy for Theatre Arts and a regular feature at Wrocław and Legnica theatres.

Armand Roulin (often portrayed by van Gogh) was in turn dubbed by Douglas Booth (“Noe"). The Polish version features a variety of familiar and celebrated voices, including Danuta Stenka, Jerzy Stuhr, Maciej Stuhr, Robert Więckiewicz and Józef Pawłowski.

Duly awarded

The film has been enjoying unexpected popularity. It has been sold to cinemas in nearly 140 different countries! It has also garnered the European Film Award, EDA Award, and awards at Annecy and Shanghai festivals..

"Loving Vincent" was produced by BreakThru Productions, a London-based company established by Hugh Welchman, whose “Peter and the Wolf" won the Academy Award for the Best Short Animated Film in 2008.

The company produced a number of films, including a feature called "The Flying Machine" (2011), which combines modern animated film and photographs in an adventure story following in the footsteps of the Polish composer Frederic Chopin.

BreakThru owes its world renown for short films that were awarded in prestigious film festivals across the globe. The company has garnered a BAFTA nomination, the Annecy Crystal Award, as well as Canal+, TCM and Rose d’Or awards.

Magdalena Talik