This 2015 documentary is the latest in the Exhibition on Screen series the Fine Arts Theatre has been hosting, and it’s a worthy companion to the theater’s 2017 animated hit, Loving Vincent. Bringing Van Gogh’s artwork to life, Loving drilled down on his last years in Arles, France, and toyed with the theory that he was murdered. The documentary provides a wider view of the artist’s life and influences, a compact and engaging tutorial in the origin of Van Gogh’s unique vision and how to fit his art in the context of his daily struggles. And there’s no murder to solve.
Unless you’re an art historian, A New Way of Seeing is guaranteed to tell you things you didn’t know about Van Gogh and his family. It’s based on a comprehensive new presentation of the permanent collection of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and includes the usual stories — poverty, mental instability, the ear cutting. But none get more attention in the film’s largely chronological recounting of Van Gogh’s rocky life than the lesser episodes that were equally if not more important to his art. The museum also holds a treasure trove of Van Gogh’s letters, many of them illustrated with drawings. Excerpts are performed to help humanize the man, and silent reenactments by actor Jamie de Courcey, a ringer for Van Gogh, are well staged.
Among the many Exhibition on Screen documentaries presented so far by the Fine Arts, Vincent Van Gogh is among the broadest, covering the artist’s entire life and oeuvre. But given the wider culture’s tendency to turn Van Gogh into a series of stormy dramas, A New Way’s sober, steady approach is appreciated. Few artists left a legacy as potent and vibrant as Van Gogh, a point the film makes colorfully clear.
Available to rent July 24-August 6 via fineartstheatre.com