World's first fully hand-painted film honors Vincent van Gogh

One of cinema’s most ambitious new films was under production in small studio in Poland.

There, with the stroke of a brush, a team of painters brings to life the work of the brilliant and troubled 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, reports CBS News correspondent Jonathan Vigliotti.

The final result: the first hand-painted film ever made.

“We have definitely, without a doubt, invented the slowest form of filmmaking ever devised in 120 years,” said Hugh Welchman, the film’s director.

Using letters written by van Gogh, Welchman and his wife, Dorota Kobiella, tell the story of van Gogh’s creative genius and sudden death.

Vincent van Gogh was born in the Netherlands in 1853. Over the course of his career, he painted more than 800 canvases -- famous themes including sunflowers and wheat fields. At 37 years old, after being released from a mental institution, he took his own life without any explanation.
 
“How does a man go from being absolutely calm to suicidal in six weeks?” the film asks.

That pivotal question is explored through fictional interviews with the real-life characters and locations depicted in 150 of van Gogh’s famous paintings.

Like a traditional film, “Loving Vincent” began with a set and actors.

“We filmed with live actors on green screen, we composited into the background of those shots van Goth paintings. We cut it together like a live action film, but then we projected each frame individually onto canvas,” said producer Ivan Mactaggart.

Mactaggart said a team of 120 artists recruited from all over the world turned those projections into oil paintings.

“You’re not just filling in or overpainting a scene as you see it; you’re actually having to interpret a moving scene in the style of an artist who died 126 years ago,” Mactaggart said.

Every single frame of “Loving Vincent” is painted by hand. That’s 64,000 canvases.
 
The entire 90-minute film took four years to make. And while there is computer software that can create the illusion of a painting with the click of a mouse, Welchman said computers can never replicate this kind of authenticity.

“Loving Vincent” is a painstaking tribute to van Gogh -- a moving exhibit of his work unlike any before.