Six years ago, filmmakers Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman had a crazy, never-before-done idea. What would they need to do to create a film made entirely out of paintings? With the help of hundreds of artists (and of course around 5 million dollars), the pair did just that. “When we decided we were going to paint an entire film, we thought that was going to be the toughest part,” Welchman tells Artnet News. But instead, “among the hardest challenges was raising the money for it.”

“We cannot speak other than by our paintings.” – Vincent Van Gogh

After finally gaining investment, the film released in theatres across America last week, 125 artists painted over 1,000 canvases to create the world’s first fully painted film. Based on artist Vincent Van Gogh, Loving Vincent is a stop-motion film made entirely from oil paintings and considers what might have happened if Van Gogh did not commit suicide, but was murdered. “You can’t tell Vincent’s story without his paintings,” Kobiela says. “Van Gogh completely dedicated the last nine years of his life to his artistic quests.”

Painters at work to create Loving Vincent. Courtesy Loving

The project was as difficult and as time-consuming as you’d imagine – to capture changing backgrounds, facial expressions, and movement – each canvas was re-painted an average of 76 times. Between them, artists executed a total of 65,000 frames in oil paint. On a bittersweet note “In a letter Van Gogh wrote just one week before his death, he said, “We cannot speak other than by our paintings,” said Kobiela, so that’s what they did. Watch the full trailer below:

Header image: Vincent Van Gogh played by Robert Gulaczyk. Courtesy Good Deed Entertainment and Loving Vincent