Bedroom in Arles at Night - Keyframe Process
The Loving Vincent team spent many months in our design painting process, working out how we were going to adapt Vincent van Gogh’s paintings for the story of Loving Vincent, such as re-imagining Vincent’s famous Bedroom in Arles for a scene set at night.
Our original storyboard and Van Gogh’s Bedroom in Arles
You can see that the storyboard panel is wider than Van Gogh’s original painting. Originally we were intending to make the film in the standard modern aspect ratio 16:9, but in the end we decided to use a 1.33:1 ratio for Loving Vincent, also known as Academy. Even though Vincent often painted his paintings very quickly, a lot of thought over weeks, often months and sometimes even years, had gone into the subject matter and the framing, so we felt that to be respectful to his artistic and intellectual work we should try to stay as close to his composition as possible.
To re-imagine Van Gogh’s original painting Bedroom in Arles, Loving Vincent design painter Wiktor Jackowski remained true to Vincent’s original for the floor, the bed, the chair, and the walls, but then he had take a completely different approach to the lighting. The original has flat lighting, and we wanted to have dramatic lighting to enhance the storytelling - in this scene we have the cold light of moonlight coming in through the window and the lamplight from the corridor throwing harsh shadows on the floor and the wall. Wiktor had to come up with an approach for night-time interior. Van Gogh had only painted two night interiors in his post-Paris colour style, which were both re-imaginings of other artists work, done while he was in St Remy Asylum in 1889.
Evening the Watch (after Milliet) / The Man is at Sea (After Demont Breton)
Wiktor decided instead to look for inspiration from Vincent’s Dutch period paintings. Indeed Vincent’s first masterpiece, The Potato Eaters, is an interior night scene.
The Potato Eaters / Bobbin Winder, both painted by Van Gogh in 1885
As well as The Potato Eaters Vincent also painted a number of low light interiors of weavers working in their cottages. Particularly useful was Bobbin Winder, because it contained all the colours needed to build the night atmosphere. Wiktor used this as the basis for the sketch on the top right side below.
For the bottom left Wiktor used as his night colour reference Starry Night over the Rhone, and the bottom right sketch was inspired by the colours in The Starry Night.
Starry Night over the Rhone (1888) and The Starry Night (1889)
The main challenge for Wiktor was imagining the colours in a completely different light situation, especially as Van Gogh did three versions of Bedroom in Arles, all painted in different colours. There was the additional complication of the fact that it has now been proven that the colours we are seeing today in the original are not what Vincent originally painted, as the famous blue walls are decayed from the lilac colour he actually painted them in.
Wiktor presented these options to Loving Vincent co-director Dorota Kobiela and she chose the ‘Starry Night over the Rhone’ colour direction, because it is the most contrasted and most dramatic. It was a happy accident that this painting was painted in the same period as Bedroom in Arles, and was the only one of the three directions based on a painting from Vincent’s Arles period.
The final keyframe