Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Loving Vincent's diary - 8th week // the Story [part 1/7]

BreakThru's producer Hugh Welchman (Oscar Winner for producing BreakThru's Peter and the Wolf) and painter/director Dorota Kobiela (director of BreakThru's Little Postman and Chopin's Drawings) are co-writing BreakThru's latest film, Loving Vincent, the world's first feature length painting animation film. The film is a mystery thriller looking into the life and death of Vincent Van Gogh, and is told through bringing over 120 of Vincent's masterpieces to animated life...

The script is on its fourth, and final, draft, and wth production scheduled for spring 2013, the pressure is mounting. This weekly diary will candidly record their process of writing the elusive final draft.

Loving Vincent's diary - 8th week // the Story [part 1/7]

The demands of writing a script on Vincent… are tough. We want it to look a certain way. We take as our mantra his words in one of his last letters: "We cannot speak other than by our paintings". So we show only what we see in his paintings. With that restriction we have many paths we can still follow. Vincent's struggle, the mystery of his death, the development of his art, or an alchemy of the aforementioned. You can't know Vincent if you don't know his early life, but also big chunks are missing. Tersteeg, his first boss, and somewhat the bain of Vincent's life, by his son's own admission burnt all of Vincents 300 or so letters to him. Letters around the crucial trip to Paris, which could be seen, however you believe he died, as the beginning of his final downward spiral.

So to help me I have written a short story in 7 parts, the story of Vincent as I see it, tell me what parts you identify with, what strikes a chord, it'll help…

It starts in a barn, and ends in a barn. Here's section one.

Section 1 - away in a manger

Our story starts in a small barn, a shed really, for animals, an outhouse in a poor village on a starry winter’s night in a desperately poor mining village of the Borinage in French speaking Belgium. A finely dressed young man, who would seem short in other circumstances, but among the hunched miners, stunted by generations of gruelling poverty, he addresses the habitants from a lofty height, accentuated by his fine apparel. They point him through the frosty rutted mud streets to a small barn on the edge of the village. They will go no further, the young man goes on alone. Apprehensively he opens the barn door. He recoils in shock…

What he sees is an emaciated man, naked but for a coarse coal sack fashioned as a nightshirt, with wild red beard, matted hair, who gives the visitor a grin, exposing a smile missing teeth, and who wears a look crazed by hunger. But two years ago this man, freezing naked in a hovel under the onslaught of a Walloon winter, was strutting around London in a fine top hat and tailored suit, not so different from those of the fine young visitor. In fact he had been, formerly, like his visitor, an assistant art dealer at the world renowned Goupil’s art dealership, where his uncle, his namesake as it happens, and not by accident, was a managing partner. Groomed from an early age to be his Uncle’s heir apparent how did this young bourgeois, find himself naked and starving, and living in an animal shelter in one of the most miserably poor places on the planet? The fine young man closes the door behind him, and outside the villagers listen as fierce shouting, in a foreign language,  emanates from the wooden shack.

This is a turning point, indeed, there is no lower that Vincent Van Gogh could have gone. Vincent, is the emaciated naked redhead, and the fine young man is Vincent’s younger brother, Theo Van Gogh, rising star at the very company that Vincent was thrown out of.

Theo looks down at the figure lying in the straw, at the figure that used to be the older brother he loved, adored and looked up to; a man so burning with the desire to do good in this world. Theo demands to know why Vincent is wasting his life. Vincent takes in Theo, who is seething with rage in his impeccably tailored clothes, that fit him in a way they never did on Vincent; Vincent never looked or felt right in those clothes, as if nature knew he was a fraud in them, clothes that showed to the world that however he brushed or cut his hair or starched his collar, he was a fraud.

“Theo There are wastrels and wastrels. There are wastrels who waste the golden hours because they are cowardly, idle and vicious, But there are others, idle in-spite of themselves, consumed by a passionate desire for action, who do nothing because they cannot do anything, because they have no tools to work with and because they are hemmed in by circumstances. People like this do not even know what they could do, they only feel instinctively: I am good for something; I have a right to live; I know I could be different from my present self; What purpose could i serve, how could I be of use, there is something serviceable within me, what is it?”

Theo’s pent up anger subsides: “Of course you can do something, what about art? Drawing? You like that, and you love art so much, and that you know everything about: why not make some art?”. Vincent scoffs at the notion. Him, an artist, huh, he isn’t even worthy to be a missionary’s assistant preacher in the back end of humanity: he failed even at that, how can he be worthy of something as sanctified as making art? Theo descends back into fury. “Stop wallowing in your own self pity, look around you! These miners you profess to love: they get up everyday and work all day underground, amidst lethal danger, to earn enough to stop their families starving! Get up and get working at something!” With that Theo gets out 50 francs. “Use this to buy some clothes, have a decent meal so you can start thinking straight again”. Vincent gets up and violently stuffs the money back in his brother’s pocket. Theo walks out in disgust, but a few steps outside he turns and goes back through the stable door, and leaves the money on the ground. “Buy some paper and pencils; at least try Vincent, in the name of the Rijswik mill, in the name of our pledge to each other, at least try!” And he is gone.

by Hugh Welchman

1 comment:

  1. Reading this I could feel the anger in Theo's words to Vincent...
    I found myself yelling at Vincent as well and this will be a work that world will love to see. Thank you for bringing this to life!