The most profound exploration of an artist's soul ever to be put on film (Village Voice), VINCENT: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF VINCENT VAN GOGH is a captivating study of a brilliant artist. One of the Top 10 documentaries the ye... more »ar it was released, Paul Cox's portrait of Vincent Van Gogh is a journey through the life of a tortured genius who became one of the greatest artists of all time. The story is told through letters written to his brother Theo from 1872 until 1890, eloquently read by actor John Hurt.« less
""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 "
The Definitive Van Gogh
R. Epstein | USA | 09/27/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I can only imagine how pleased Van Gogh would be at seeing his work articulated through Paul Cox's lens. Interspersed with countless images of Van Gogh's original work, are cinematic images of the landscapes, the still-lifes, the town, and the people that Van Gogh knew so well. Cox unassumingly uses real people and costumes in an almost dream-like fashion; they exist along the edges of the film, in a sort of blur; as if we were living directly in Van Gogh's dreams and memories. What's most astounding though, is that I never knew what an incredibly gifted writer Van Gogh was. The entire film is narration of Van Gogh's words, in letters written to his brother. His passion, idealism, and frustration are articulated in ways that are so tangible ... it makes all other works about frustrated idealists seem downright silly. It took me a while to warm up to John Hurt's narration because I kept envisioning him instead of Van Gogh, but after a little while I got lost in the words just and concentrated on the feeling that Hurt was evoking. By the end I was in tears. It's the best film about an artist that I've ever seen. - - - Also, don't forget to check out the fantastic 55 minute documentary on the film's director, Paul Cox; a soul mate of Van Gogh's to be sure."
The most original and profound film about an artist.
darragh o'donoghue | 09/28/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A marvellous tribute from one great Dutch genius to another, 'Vincent' is quite literally a documentary, its verbal narrative told entirely through the letters Vincent Van Gogh wrote to his loyal, long-suffering brother Theo, read with remarkable nuance by John Hurt, who manages to capture the volcanic passions, the hypersensitivity, the isolation that tore Van Gogh apart, without ever indulging in noisy histrionics. these letters are perhaps the most complete autobiographical record we have of any major artist: more than mere letters, they are an over-ripe diary, a detailed account of Van Gogh's life that works on many levels. They give us Van Gogh's side of his famous life-story, his rupture with his family, especially his sternly respectable father; his enthusiastic desire to be an evangelist, with painting as an outpouring of his religious feelings, his failure making him feel like an outcast; his paintings of peasants in mining villages; his journey to Paris, and his, er, brush with the Impressionists; his notorious stay in Arles with Gauguin, where he executed his most famous work, but also got involved in so much violence, leading to the ear-splicing episode, that he was locked away in a madhouse; his final aimless, despairing wanderings. Allied to this historical narrative, which in its relentless path to suicide is a rather depressing one, is an account of Van Gogh's progress as an artist, the development of his sensibility; his changing attitudes to the mysteries of nature; his experiments with colour, form, representation; his fierce desire to create a new kind of painting, away from the mind-stifling banalities of academic art (Van Gogh believed his lack of training allowed him to take risks he would never have done if he'd been taught. Co-existent with the dark doom of his life, this blindingly colourful journey is a continuous and rapturous revelation, Van Gogh the supposed madman blundering towards apotheosis with startling, direct articulacy. Listening to these letters in conjunction with the paintings is an exciting, overwhelming experience, enabling us to look at them through his eyes, not some jaded critic's.If this was the entirity of the film, it would be enough, but not much more than your average TV arts documentary. But Cox isn't content to merely illustrate the often self-deluding words. His film offers an interesting visual collage that works a number of functions. He films symbolic tableaux that approximate his picture of Van gogh - e.g. the recurring image of birds and their migrating patterns. He films many of the places Van Gogh talks about and paints, in a straight documentary style, which allows us to see how they were transformed in the artist's mind, yet retained their essential character. he fills in Van Gogh's ellipses or blind spots simply by lingering on certain images. The generally calm, distanced style often breaks down into distorted montages, perhaps approximating Van Gogh's fevered mind - the first, casual mention of painting turns the film's placid surface into a grotesque carnival. Most of all, he tries to bring Van Gogh back to his purest state, his works as works rather than as designer labels on the art fashion market. of course, this is impossible - every raw experience described as new for Van Gogh is the stuff of legend now. This might explain why the stripping away makes this documentary sometimes fell like a dream."
Tribute to the spirit of a great man
Nancy Price (email@example.com) | Garden City, KS | 03/27/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Not many movies out there about Manic-Depression, or as be called it today - BiPolar Disorder. The video Mr. Jones is one, Vincent is another. Video was put together in such manner as to gain much empathy for van Gogh, struggling with a mental handicap and struggling to capture the world on canvas. The film uniquely reveals the soul of the artist. Yet another title - Vincent and Theo - worth viewing also."
A fascinating tribute to the extraordinary artist who cut of
Stephen Pletko | London, Ontario, Canada | 03/29/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
Here's what I know about artist Vincent Van Gogh (1853 to 1890): (1) He only sold one painting in his lifetime (ironic since one of his paintings in modern times sold for 40 million dollars) (2) he sliced off part of his ear in a fit of madness.
This documentary reveals that there was much, much more to this man. I say documentary but this is not your ordinary run-of-the-mill documentary that was written and directed by acclaimed filmmaker Paul Cox.
Beware! This is not a biography of Van Gogh but a look into his psyche during the last eighteen years of his life.
This documentary consists of British actor John Hurt reading from selected letters Van Gough wrote mostly to his younger brother (named Theodore or "Theo"). These letters date from 1872 to 1890. Cox has thus found an effective and unique way to tell Van Gogh's story even though it's somewhat repetitive to listen to Hurt's voice for an hour and a half. (I must admit though, Hurt's voice is interesting and distinctive.)
I learned what an incredibly gifted writer Van Gogh was. These letters reveal his passion, idealism, and frustration. Here is a sentence from one of his letters that I feel accurately and succinctly sums up his life:
"It is basically true that a painter is a man who is too absorbed in what his eyes see and is not sufficiently master of the rest of his life."
On screen, we see a collection of imagery (sometimes random) that relates (sometimes vaguely) to the themes in the letters, interspersed with a few drawings and paintings of Van Gogh's famous works. Occasionally music accompanies the images, some of it classical.
Overall, this documentary helps the viewer better understand not only Van Gogh's "life and death" but also his passion for painting.
The DVD itself is perfect in picture and sound quality. There are a few extras, the most important, in my opinion, being a brief written biography of Van Gogh. For Paul Cox fans there is also a 55-minute featurette entitled "A Journey with Paul Cox."
Finally, here is a sentence from the above written biography that sums up Van Gough's greatness as an artist:
"Vincent Van Gogh's direct brushstrokes, radiant colors, and passionate approach to his subjects made him one of the greatest artists of the last hundred years."
In conclusion, this is an unusual and unusually absorbing work with an original vision. What you would expect when learning about a most original artist!!