Viktors Freibergs, film expert
When making films about artists, there are two approaches to choose from. The first is to aim for a biography, by bringing the personality to the forefront. As a result, however, the art of painting, through which the artist speaks, looses its importance. Focusing on the artist's personality and his neuroses is unfair, in my opinion. That is not the main thing that should be portrayed. However, we cannot deny that biography is here to stay, and often times it is extremely interesting. The second possible approach, which is of more interest to me, is when the story of the film – as “text”, is merged with the painting – as “text”. When a synthesis of these two systems of signs is created, the result, in my opinion, is rather more distinct and interesting.
Vincente Minelli's (1903-1986) film “Lust for Life” (1956) is very effective. Even if no one knew who the 19th century painter Vincent van Gogh was, the film would be excellent in itself. It is a classic example of a biographical film having a central object. We see van Gogh's paintings, we see him working; most of his life story is told. We are shown a personality. A biographical story can be suggestive, but only if it works emotionally. Hopefully, the film's viewers won't attempt to explain van Gogh's work and genius by way of his madness.