Vincent Van Gogh is the archetypical tortured artistic genius. His obsession with painting, combined with mental illness, propels him through an unhappy life full of failures and unrewarding relationships. He only manages to sell one painting in his lifetime. The one constant good in his life is his brother Theo, who is unwavering in his moral and financial support.
At 26 he was appointed as a missionary to a very poor mining area of Holland resulting from pleading to be given a chance after failing theology exams. While there he realised that preaching at the desperately poor mining families was not making an impact as he couldn’t fully appreciate their dire circumstances. He thus started to live as they were and trying to bring some material relief to people’s lives as possible – to model his life on Jesus. When visited by church hierarchy, they were horrified by his living conditions and dismissed him for undermining the dignity of the priesthood. Not a very enlightened reaction to the miners situation!
In his paintings, churches have no doors and no lights – a reflection of his experience that churches are lifeless and people can neither get in nor out.
The film continued to explore his other struggles with making a living and his fraught relationships with people – famous artists and the not-so-famous.