Like so many giant screen films, “Van Gogh” feels the need to enhance its visuals with a prosaic story line. In this case, it takes the form of concentrating on figures like Peter Knapp, who conceived the idea for the film, and a fictional museum researcher (played by French actress Helen Seuzaret) delving into Van Gogh’s numerous letters.
More problematically, Marie Sellier’s screenplay includes numerous observations by “Van Gogh” himself, who comments on the proceedings in, considering the mental illness that eventually led his suicide, disarmingly chipper fashion.
But these silly conceits don’t detract from the film’s raison d’etre, which is to showcase the artist’s magnificent paintings in a manner that will prove visually revelatory even for those fortunate enough to have seen many of them in person. The images of these masterworks, which are frequently accompanied by beautiful shots of the actual landscapes in such places as Arles and Saint-Remy that inspired them, are so stunning that it’s a wonder that no one thought to showcase them in this cinematic manner before now.
I don’t think that Van Gogh is my favorite painter, but his artwork floors me. It short circuits my synapses. Have you seen Van Gogh’s brushstrokes? The Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam is perhaps most interesting to see the progression of the artist’s work – from the drab earth tones and sad faces in “Potato Eaters” to the vivid and hallucinatory globby brush strokes of “The Wheat Fields.”
I’m still convinced that the Sistine Chapel should have been painted by Van Gogh rather than Michaelangelo. Visitors would truly see the overwhelming beauty of God’s visage then.
The Van Gogh IMAX experience will hit US theaters sometime in early 2009. And yes, “The Peach Tree” (as seen above) is my favorite painting bar none.