Knowing Vincent

I went to a movie a few days ago: “Loving Vincent”. I was curious more than anything about how it was going to work, considering the odd restraints they’d put upon themselves. Every frame an oil painting.


Now I’ve heard and seen the expression before – but referring to a regularly filmed movie where every frame was well-considered, well-shot, artistically crafted. In that respect ‘Vincent’ was a mess. An utter lack of colour balance, of visual/thematic consistency. The cinematography was all to buggery. In places so distracting as to ruin the story’s progress, the portrayal of character. And yet …

And yet it got to me. I was pulled in. I became emotionally engaged. And at the end, during the credits, in a cinema packed with 8 people, I utterly wept for Vincent.

Something about me, it was. My triggers had been pulled. My own agonies were on the screen. Up there was a story about a man, a GENIUS, who’d finally found his calling after multiple failures in life. For eight years, despite a psychiatric condition and maybe a touch of severe autism and certainly the emotional burdens loaded upon him from birth, he painted. Literally like a man possessed. 800 paintings in eight years. Only one sold in his lifetime. He’d been sustained largely by a loyal brother and the kindnesses of many strangers.

Then killed by the unkindnesses of others. Quite literally, in the end.

I’d gone along my entire life swallowing the suicide myth. Not so. It was complicated, but gradually all the possibilities were cleverly unpacked for me to do my own forensics upon. The most striking thing was how powerful and influential were the blighted opinions of just a few people. False News. On the strength of a few words and a lot of prejudice, Vincent Van Gogh was dismissed as a nutbag who went and shot himself. The history books, the common (mis)- conceptions, the songs; they’re all wrong.

He wasn’t, and he didn’t.

I guess that’s why I cried. A beautiful genius, an eternal child, a gentle spirit with the perceptions of a God; taken in his prime. (Or he ‘took one for the team’, from another view.)

Could have been saved. COULD HAVE BEEN SAVED! And nobody did.

The kind strangers tried to care, but none cared enough, in the end. Everyone had their own agendas; their own myths to sustain and secrets to keep and arses to cover.

That’s why I cried. The sheer fucking awful tragedy of it all.

That was me in the little yellow room. That was my entire life, re-expressed, writ large. Something about failing in “the real world”, about finally finding my best talent that did begin to work for me, that I could be a ‘genius’ at, and about trying so hard but in the end watching it gasp and die like a beautiful beached fish while people walked past, or jeered, or poked it with sticks. (Okay, no-one has directly poked my writing career with sticks, but it has felt like that to me, especially after moving to Australia. Some Kiwi-poking, perhaps?)

But mainly, I cried for Vincent. I finally got to know him. Way too late.


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