Loving Vincent - The movie

Movie poster
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FilmUpper Secondary (Key Stage 4)

This lesson contains 35 slides, with interactive quizzes, text slides and 7 videos.

time-iconLesson duration is: 60 min


What is involved in making a movie about Vincent van Gogh? A course, in association with EYE Filmmuseum and the Holland Animation Film Festival, about ways to tell stories and animation as a popular cinematic form and technique. Can be subdivided into a discussion before and after watching 'Loving Vincent'.


Kijkwijzer 9, spider pictogram, coarse language

The Dutch Kijkwijzer rating system indicates the age under which a movie may be harmful. This teaching material is aimed at 14+, the age group for which the film education is perfectly suited.

General learning objectives

  • Students learn about the movie they are about to watch, furthering comprehension of and reflection on the film.
  • Students gain insight in animation as an art form and technique.
  • Students gain insight in making animation movies and can use this when making their own short movie.
  • Students gain insight in ways to tell a story and in film genres.

Connection to the curriculum

  • Art and culture, history


  • The course can be used in class, but can also be followed individually by students.
  • If the course is divided into a preliminary discussion before viewing and a discussion afterwards, it is recommended to show the 'making of' fragments after the movie, to make the viewing experience more profound.
  • Go through the entire course once more to explore all possibilities and to make a choice as to what will be discussed in class.

Required materials

Depending on the assignment, the students will have to organise a few things themselves.

Rotoscoping assignment:

Computer, internet connection, beamer or printer. Paper, drawing or painting materials, scissors, glue, magazines.

Stop-motion assignment:

Tripod, camera or mobile phone, computer, internet connection, beamer, software like MovieMaker, iStopMotion, iMovie, possibly objects to make still lives with.

Background information

The online platform MovieZone.nl offers youngsters from 12 to 21 the possibility to learn about all aspects of movie-making, either through easy-to-use film tips, background information and online series on the website, or by actively taking part in MovieZone activities.

Items in this lesson

Movie poster

Slide 1 - Slide

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Curious about Loving Vincent?

What kind of a movie do you expect when seeing the poster or the trailer?

Seen the movie?
Then notice the differences in the narrative structures of the trailer and the movie!
What does the movie title mean?
Loving Vincent refers to the signature Vincent van Gogh used in his letters. The end of the trailer shows the text, and a voice-over says: ‘Your Loving Vincent.’
What strikes you about the poster?
The poster is entirely painted, in the style of Vincent van Gogh’s work. The man on the poster looks quite true to life.
He does not appear to be a very cheerful man, because he looks quite grim.

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Slide 3 - Video

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What does the trailer tell you about the story?
The postman’s son sets out to deliver one of Vincent’s letters. He thinks it is nonsense at first, but in the end he wants to do something for him. The whole town has turned against Vincent and many knew something was wrong with him.
What else strikes you about the trailer?
It is in black and white and in colour. It has fragments of profusely painted animation and you see painted actors. Various people say something about Vincent. The music is quite powerful.

Slide 4 - Slide

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What is animation?

How is animation made?
An animation movie is made by creating a series of still images and recording them sequentially. Each image shows the next small step of the movement. When the images are shown in rapid succession, the motion seems real.
Animation is a cinematic form and technique, creating the illusion of motion by the rapid succession of sequential images. To animate means ‘to bring to life’. It derives from Latin animāre (fill with breath, inspire).

Slide 5 - Slide

The answer to the main question can be found under the top hotspot. The answer under the bottom hotspot is illustrated by an image from Edward Muybridge’s Animal Locomotion.
What do you know animation from?

You can find animation almost everywhere, even without realising it.
For example, you can see it in...
  • 'special effects' in feature films (Star Wars, Harry Potter, etc.)
  • visual art
  • websites
  • mobile phones
  • cartoons
  • tv-series
  • musicvideos
  • adfilms
  • games
The best known producer of animation movies is Disney, nowadays Disney-Pixar. Walt Disney made animation popular among the general public. He founded the famous Disney Studios and created the first feature-length animated film, Snow White (1937).
The picture shows a still from Zootopia by Byron Howard and Rich Moore, a Walt Disney Pictures production (USA 2016). In 2017, this movie won an Academy Award® in the Best Animated Feature Film category.
Animation is often used if something is impossible in reality. This makes it the ideal genre for games, like for example the popular Cuphead.

Slide 6 - Slide

Ask the students whether they know what animation is used for. Under the hotspot in the middle is a list with possible answers.
Which animated feature films do you know?

Nowadays, more and more personal animated feature films are released, the so-called auteur films, in which the filmmaker’s vision or style plays a prominent role.
The Dutch filmmaker Michael Dudok de Wit made his first animated feature film The Red Turtle with the help of the renowned Japanese Studio Ghibli. The film bagged numerous awards at festivals from Cannes to Utrecht, and was nominated for the 2017 Oscar® in the Best Animated Feature Film category.
Ma vie de Courgette by Claude Barras is a fine example of a personal animation movie with an inspired story. Showered with awards, and nominated for the 2017 Oscar® in the Best Animated Feature Film category.
Japanese manga (cartoons) and anime (animation films) constitute their own genre. Its best known filmmaker is Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo) Makoto Shinkai also makes crystal-clear anime, including Your Name (see picture). The film is worldwide one of the top audience favourites of Japanese cinema.

Slide 7 - Slide

First ask the students if they can name some titles. A few examples are listed under the hotspots.
Animation technique

You can animate in many ways.
And: you can do anything with animation!

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Which animation techniques do you know?

Slide 9 - Mind map

Make a list of the answers with the help of the wordweb.
The Red Turtle is a hand-made animation movie.
Your Name is a Japanese animation film or 'anime'.

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The series of Wallace & Gromit films by the famous 'Aardman Animations' (UK) consists of short animations.
A celebrated spin-off of this franchise is the Shaun the Sheep clay animation series.
An animation film with clay animation, puppets or objects is called stop motion. After each new step, the filmmaker pauses to capture the figure. This way, the movie is made frame by frame.

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Ma vie de Courgette is a puppet animation.

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All animation techniques can be imitated on a computer; a puppet animation too. Toy Story was entirely created on computer.

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Frame by frame
You create an animation film by creating motion one frame at a time. For Loving Vincent, 66,960 separate frames were created. The duration of the movie is 93 minutes. Just do the math to know how many frames per second that is...
The phrase 'frame by frame' dates back to the time when film was recorded on and shown from a film strip. On this strip, you can easily see the separate frames. Nowadays, movies are mostly made digitally. But in this case, too, the separate frames are perceptible.

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Film types (‘genres’)

Genres have common thematic or stylistic characteristics. In many cases, you can immediately identify the genre of a movie. As with music: you promptly hear if a track is classical or pop music, urban, country or metal. When a genre is announced, you often know what to expect.

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On the MovieZone site, you can find more information on genres.
Animation films come in every conceivable genre.
Can you give some examples of genres?

Slide 16 - Mind map

Action movies, adventure movies, documentaries, docudrama, experimental films, fantasy films, film noir, horror, children’s films, comedy, period piece, crime movies, musicals, nature films, war movies, disaster films, road movies, romantic films, science-fiction movies, slapstick, fairy-tale movies, thrillers, westerns...
Asia produces genres like Japanese anime and the Indian Bollywood cinema.
Narrative structure
The structure of the story is a tool to help you understand a film and build tension. It is a game of raising and meeting expectations.

How do you compose a story?

Classic stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. They provide answers to straightforward questions like

  • Who? What? Where? When? Why?

A cause with an effect, or a conflict with a turning point also helps.

Slide 17 - Slide

Have the students seen the film? If so, ask them about the narrative structure of Loving Vincent.

Stories can also be composed in a highly associative way, as if the separate elements are almost automatically linked.
Now watch the trailer of Loving Vincent.

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Slide 19 - Video

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Loving Vincent: a whodunit
After his initial reluctance, Armand grows determined to unravel the mystery surrounding Vincent’s death. It looks like a detective, the way the postman’s son looks for answers. A classic whodunit!
A whodunit is a kind of detective movie where the audience follows the investigator’s clues. Typically, he looks for the perpetrator of a crime. The revelation is provided at the end
Classic examples of Whodunits are the detective stories by British author Agatha Christie. They are popular all over the world and have been adapted numerous times, like recently Murder on the Orient Express. Another famous example is Sherlock Holmes and his assistant Dr. Watson, conceived by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

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Which 'clues' in this whodunit can you find in the trailer?
Seen the movie? Then discuss the clues provided by different characters in the course of the film.

Watch Fragment 1 and Fragment 2 of the trailer.

Slide 21 - Slide

In Arles, clues are provided by postman Joseph Roulin and Lieutenant Milliet. In Paris by seller of art supplies Père Tanguy. In Auvers, subsequently, Armand has to wait for the arrival of Dr. Gachet and talks to housekeeper Louise Chevalier, innkeeper’s daughter Adeline Ravoux, the boat man, daughter Marguerite Gachet, thatcher / simple kid’s uncle, the policeman, Dr. Mazery and Dr. Gachet.
The paintings

For Loving Vincent, the makers wanted to tell the story via existing Vincent van Gogh paintings. They opted for an animated feature film. Just as with a live-action film (‘regular’ feature film), the story was entirely shot with actors of flesh and blood. The actors did have to look a bit like the people in the paintings, though.
In the next screen, watch the report behind the scenes and discover how Loving Vincent was made.

In total, 94 Van Gogh paintings were taken as a starting point. The filmmakers had to bear in mind the variation in style, technique and format. Want to know more? Watch Fragment 1 and Fragment 2.

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Slide 23 - Video

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Black and white and colour

The scenes in black and white seem to be set around memories of the people who are speaking. But the makers had a second reason to work with black-and-white images. Just watch the following videos.

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The trailer contains a few black-and-white fragments. Ask the students what this could imply. Can they say something about the style of the black-and-white fragments, as compared to the rest in colour?

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Slide 26 - Video

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The shooting

The actors played against a background of green screens or sets that looked like Van Gogh paintings. The clothes from the period were also carefully reproduced.
In which situations are green screen shots convenient?
If it is difficult or expensive to record certain scenes. Or in dangerous conditions and on locations where it is hard to get permission to shoot. Remote locations, fantasy locations that do not exist, historical locations, outer space, deep sea - etcetera.
With recordings in front of a green (or blue) screen, the background can later be replaced by any desired background on a computer.
In the following screen, watch the report behind the scenes. Because some Van Gogh paintings have a distorted perspective, shots of objects and actors also had to be distorted to fit them in the paintings.

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Slide 28 - Video

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Rotoscoping is an animation technique used by animators to trace over existing images or scenes with actors. The end result may look very different.
With special equipment, separate live-action film frames are enlarged so they can be traced or painted, enabling artists to depict images in their own style.

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The best known Dutch animator who often used the rotoscoping technique was Gerrit van Dijk. He made personal, socially committed films featuring prominent people from cinema, TV, history, politics and fine art.
Teaming up with Monique Renault, Gerrit van Dijk conceived the short film Pas à Deux. In this film, the dance partners are celebrities who constantly transform into different appearances.

This is a still from A Good Turn Daily. Gerrit van Dijk (1938-2012) made this film on the basis of events in world history. Fragment1 and Fragment 2.

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Can you give examples of movies, reports or clips for which rotoscoping may be helpful?
Music videos, creative reports, if people must remain anonymous, YouTube vlogs...
Reminder: rotoscoping is ...
... a technique using special equipment to enlarge separate live-action film frames to trace over or paint, enabling artists to depict images in their own style.

If you want to watch Gerrit van Dijk’s movies in their entirety, you can do so via YouTube. He put all of his films on this online service. Click on the links below for:

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Assignment: rotoscoping

Design new characters or a new environment for an image from the news or sports. Take for example a sports match and replace the players with animals or models. Or replace the background with a location from a movie scene.
What do you need?
You need: a computer, internet connection, a beamer or a printer, paper, drawing or painting materials, scissors and glue, magazines.
Look for a nice still from the news or a sports event on the internet, trace the characters’ contours on paper or print the image on a sheet of A3 paper.

Slide 32 - Slide

Let the students work in pairs for this assignment.
Assignment: stop motion

Make a stop-motion film with a Vincent van Gogh painting. To do so, download a still life from the collection of the Van Gogh Museum.

Reminder: stop-motion ...
... is a technique where a filmmaker, after each new step, pauses to capture the figure. This way, the movie is made frame by frame.
What do you need?
You need a tripod, camera or mobile phone, computer, internet connection, beamer, software like MovieMaker, iStopMotion, iMovie, and of course objects that fit in with the still life. You can also (partly) create your stop-motion animation with clay, or with other objects.
Tip: green screen
When making a stop-motion film, a green screen comes in handy if you want to fill in the background later on a computer. Look for helpful tips on the internet.
Famous example
In 1989, Maarten Koopman made a stop-motion animation on the basis of a Van Gogh painting. In De Slaapkame (The Bedroom), he furnishes Vincent’s famous bedroom in Arles in sixty seconds. It won Maarten the special jury award at the Cannes film festival. Watch the film in the following slide.

Slide 33 - Slide

Let the students work in pairs for this assignment.
Do you want to use another type of painting instead of a still life? All paintings from the collection of the Van Gogh Museum can be
 downloaded here.

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