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Vincent van Gogh - A Life Devoted to Art
Produced by van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam and Capital Data 2009
Region Code: 0
Picture Format: 16:9; DVD9 and DVD5/NTSC
ARTHAUS MUSIK 109260 [2 DVDs: 133 mins]

This is a departure for ArtHaus Musik, a documentary about a painter rather than a composer. Here, for art-lovers is coverage of van Gogh’s often tormented existence, his life and work from his childhood in Brabant through his apprenticeship in Nuenen and enlightenment in Paris. This leads on to his life's glorious climax in the south of France and his disappointing working relationship with Gauguin in Arles when he cut off his ear.

The film is cast in five parts, dealing with his early years, his work in Holland working at many locations there, plus his experiences in Antwerp and Paris and Arles. Movingly covered, is his period of slow recuperation at the Saint-Rémy hospital after his mental breakdown. Finally there's coverage of his last very brief creative period at Auvers-sur-Oise from May to July 1890.

The film, conceived and produced by the van Gogh museum, contains unique footage covering all the places in Europe where the artist lived and worked. The experts give an insight into the artist's sources of inspiration. They use his numerous letters to show how he struggled to forge a new modern artistic style. The film shows all the masterpieces as well as many lesser known paintings and sketches.

The short bonus DVD is very interesting in showing the van Gogh museum in Amsterdam. We are told how it developed thanks to the sustained championship of the van Gogh family after Vincent’s brother Theo’s death shortly following Vincent’s own demise. The film also covers the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo, Holland in which are hung many more of the artist's canvases. There is also footage devoted to a short interview with two members of the van Gogh family.

The sections are seemingly separate entities as if they are to be seen separately (for a television series?) and some of the graphics are repeated rather too often for straight-through viewing. The music, sympathetic to the subject but of no real significance, is played by a small group of instrumentalists mainly violin, cello and trumpet with occasional contributions from piano woodwind and percussion.

Ian Lace



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