Van Gogh: Painted With Words



Timing, editing:

The myth of Vincent Van Gogh, the mad artist

has captivated us for over a century now.

Ignored during his lifetime,

after his death, his paintings finally surfaced,

or rather exploded,

capturing the world in vibrant, vivid colours.

Today, they are among the most recognisable and valuable works of art in the world

My brush goes between my fingers as if it were the bow on a violin,

and absolutely for my pleasure.

When we think of van Gogh, we see him as a strange, mad genius

who somehow, through sheer instinct, found a way of pouring out the blaze

of his inner feelings onto canvas.

Let me quietly continue my work.

If it's that or the madman, well, then too bad.

And then I can't do anything about it.

But his work has often been eclipsed by his reputation as a madman.

Vincent and I can absolutely not live side by side without trouble.

There's simply no changing the fact that he's eccentric.

It is an incredible story,

but the true story of Vincetn van Gogh is here in the letters he left behind.

Nothing can be said about van Gogh that he didn't say himself.

There are 902 letters here,

the vast majority written to his younger brother Theo,

who became his confidant and his lifeline.

This is Vincent thinking aloud, taking us through his life

step by step, documenting his struggles as an artist and as a man.

It's from these letters that this film is made.

Using only van Gogh's words and those of the people around him.

Nothing is imagined.

Every word spoken is true.

On the night of December the 23rd, 1888,

Vincent van Gogh suffered an acute mental breakdown

and cut off part of his left ear,

which he presented to a prostitute in his favourite brothel.

The police discovered him lying in a pool of blood in his bedroom

and committed him here, to the local hospital in Arles,

where he was placed in an isolation cell.

This is van Gogh's story in his own words.

'My dear Theo

'..where can I go that's worse than where I've already been?

'Shut up for long days under lock and key and in the isolation cell.'

I still have a certain "what's the good of getting better?" feeling,

however the unbearable,

unbearable hallucinations have stopped

reducing themselves to simple nightmares.

Physically, I am well,

the wound is closing very well

and the great loss of blood is balancing out.

The most fearsome thing

is the insomnia.

I feel weak,

a little anxious

and fearful.

My dear brother,

it breaks my heart to know that now you will actually have very bad days.

I do so wish that you could tell me how you feel.

For nothing is as distressing as uncertainty.

I remain your brother who loves you.


A certain number of people from here have addressed a petition to the mayor

designating me as a man not fit for living at liberty.

As the managing agent of the house occupied

by Mr Vincent van Gogh, I had occasion to speak with him yesterday

and to observe that he is suffering from mental disturbance.

He insults my customers,

and is prone to interfering with women from the neighbourhood,

whom he follows into their residences.

I was seized round the waist outside Mrs Crevlin's shop by this individual.

In short, this madman is becoming a threat to public safety,

and everyone is demanding that he be confined to a special establishment.

And this is the petition,

filed in the police records in Arles,

and signed by 30 of his neighbours.

The chief of police then gave the order to have me locked up.

'I won't hide from you that I would prefer to die than cause and bear so much trouble.

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