By Delila Cataldi & Elena Mansour
Illustration by Delila Cataldi
A new dedicated Art and Culture feature of BAISmag; for this issue Delilah and Elena reflect on the film ‘Loving Vincent’.
By the end of his life, he had created approximately 2000 paintings and sketches, of which he had sold but one. Vincent van Gogh was acknowledged for his emotional and spiritual authenticity only after his death in 1905, and is today recognized as one of the finest figures of West-European High Culture.
Van Gogh was a self-tormented romanticist who ‘failed’ to conform to the increasing rationalized social norms of his time, which were in big part, a result of industrialization. Whether he could live doing what he loved was, at least back then, in the hands of the Parisian elite.
As a biographical investigation of his mysterious death, ‘Loving Vincent’ addresses important aspects about the individual in relation to society. The movie portrays the ‘madness’ which the painter has come to be identified with, as a 19th century societal prejudice, based on reason, against ‘odd’ – ‘unstable’ – emotional behaviour. This society could not comprehend the distinction between an artist’s evident work, and his subversive expression of the self. However, upon the realization of his initial intentions, his audience developed a sense of sympathy, and this transition in perspective questions the limits that are set to and by society.
It would be appropriate to assume that there was a lot of love put into this production and it is evident in the amount of work that was put in over the past six years in order to paint an entire movie. The plot focuses on a young man who fights for the artist’s recognition, and embarks on a journey in search for veracity concerning van Gogh’s last days. At the end of the film, the narrative, which respects the notion of objective intelligence, succumbs to the ambiguity that is an inherent aspect of all quests for ‘truth’: the why, the who, the when, ultimately all remain indifferent and the sole way to truly honour Vincent van Gogh is by considering his overall influence in the world.
This approach is frighteningly contemporary, for we can accept that part of being ‘human’ in coping with uncertainty is by feeling. Furthermore, it becomes obvious that social classes dictate the realms of “reason” and “emotion”, and their attributed social characteristics. A reassessment of the moral and ethical grounds of societal fields that supposedly rely more on ‘reason’ becomes inevitable and the real question becomes: what needs to change so that societies equally endorse, justify and recognise all of their components?
Who is the arbitrator of your fate?