Vincent and Theo

Director: Robert Altman
Screenwriters: Julian Mitchell

Institute History

  • 1991 Sundance Film Festival


Robert Altman's portrait of Vincent Van Gogh is very much the work of one of filmmaking's finest artists turning his eye on one of the world's great artistic personalities. Everyone knows something about Vincent Van Gogh, arguably the world's most popular serious painter. We recognize his vibrant style and his glorious use of color. We know that he cut off his ear and died young and tragically, and that he only sold one painting in his lifetime. Some also know that it was his brother, Theo, who supported and nurtured him all of his life, thereby enabling us to have the art that now commands worldwide respect and record prices. Altman's film accepts that audiences know the story, and instead focuses on the emotional struggle of a failed artist and his interdependent relationship with his brother. His style is for-mal, nearly classical, bringing us the painterly visions of nine-teenth-century France and Holland.

And as with most of Altman's work, Vincent and Theo is a film with absolutely stunning performances. British actors Tim Roth and Paul Rhys fill two of the strongest and most demanding roles in any Altman film. As Joe McBride wrote in Variety: "Seldom has an artist been so convincingly or movingly portrayed on screen than in British actor Tim Roth's staggering performance as Vincent. . . . He has the quality Ingmar Bergman identified as a requisite for great screen acting—a sense of danger." And Punch (London) observed: The two actors of the Van Gogh brothers live in the figures they present; you don't for a moment question this is the way they were. . . . It is like watching a newsreel which has the capabilities and the creative delicacy of a work of art."

But it is also Altman whose brilliant work must be recognized and applauded. He has definitely moved back to center stage in the maelstrom of world filmmaking, and his dispassionate, even cold, directorial tone speaks volumes about art and artistry without unnecessary flamboyance and heated emotion. Vincent and Theo is a film whose impact grows on you in the days after you've seen it. It will certainly result in a reborn respect and regenerated reputation for its creator.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

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