perihadion: ("Two Crabs")
[personal profile] perihadion
I didn't like "Vincent and the Doctor" as much as I had hoped I would. This is the episode I've been looking forward to and I had expected it to be a very emotional episode for me but actually it didn't resonate with me very much at all. I didn't like Tony Curran (who I can't help but think I am almost certainly related to) as Vincent van Gogh and I think that another actor in that role would have been able to make this a more resonant episode for me. Most of the major problems I had were to do with the portrayal of van Gogh, whom I've always conceptualised as a very sweet, fundamentally lovely person who was too delicate to cope with society and who lashed out or cut himself off from the world from time to time because of his paranoia and depression. The problem with this Vincent van Gogh is that he was just too circumspect about everything — he was too circumspect about the way other people treated him (which is something I think the real Vincent van Gogh, like all depressives, grappled with a great deal), he was too circumspect about himself, and he was far too emotionally detached from his own work.

It didn't appear to hurt him at all that other people treated him badly, or that his work didn't sell; he almost seemed to think of himself as an amateur hobbyist who dabbled on the weekends rather than someone who devoted all his time and energy to his work and was wracked with self-doubt. I'm sure that he went through periods like that — when I was severely depressed I went through periods of intense clarity and resignation about my place in the world — but it didn't work for the story they were trying to tell about him, especially if they were going to throw in that scene where he was [unconvincingly] crying on the bed (which I'm sorry to say felt stapled onto the episode). There were things that I liked in the script itself — the idea that Vincent is colour-sound synaesthetic, which makes sound integral to van Gogh's work and puts an interesting twist on the fact that he later cuts off his own ear; the few moments where dialogue implied that he was a sensitive soul who couldn't function within society (specifically I'm thinking of the moment where he talks about sunflowers, although there were a couple of others) — but Tony Curran's "ordinary bloke" approach to the character really undermined all of that.

I found that to get any emotional pay-off from the scene where he overhears Bill Nighy's character describe him as "the greatest painter of all time" I had to pretend that they had depicted the Vincent van Gogh of my imagination rather than the Vincent van Gogh they did depict through the episode, and fortunately that was the one scene that I thought Tony Curran did a really good job with. I really felt for Amy at the end of the episode when it was revealed that, despite getting acclaim for his work in the end, van Gogh still killed himself — that revelation really did resonate with me. I don't understand why people think the Doctor and Amy were responsible for driving him to suicide — it's obvious that things did change as a result of their trip (the changes in the paintings), so the timeline was altered, but since that event existed in the original timeline it obviously was not caused by them. Vincent van Gogh was a very unstable man and prone to hallucinations and I actually think that he probably decided after the Tardis dematerialised that the whole event was just a dream or hallucination and a product of his deranged mind. I wasn't emotionally involved in the Amy/Vincent subplot, either, which also surprised me.

I also found a great deal of this episode very over-the-top and mawkish. How many jokes were there about how disliked Vincent van Gogh's work was in his own lifetime? I feel like Richard Curtis kept writing in references about this in order to build up the emotional moment at the end but, once again, it just didn't work in that way because there was no moment in the episode where it even seemed to bother Vincent that people disliked his work. There were a couple that I liked (Vincent setting his kettle down on a painting, and the Doctor and Amy's dismay when he painted over one) but it really should have been scaled back. I also really enjoyed the scene where Vincent was painting the church and the Doctor was climbing the walls out of boredom. Like I said to [ profile] radioreverie, I actually think that Richard Curtis is a good comedy writer (at least, I laughed at a lot of the jokes in the script and will assume that he wrote them), but he's awful at writing emotion and at drawing you into the idea that two characters are emotionally invested in each other.

Also, the music in this episode was really awful all the way through.

I've posted this pretty much everywhere else and now I'm going to post it here:

Vincent van Gogh, Thom Yorke
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September 2010

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