Vincent and Theo (1990)




Director:     Robert Altman.

Starring:     Tim Roth (Vincent Van Gogh),  Paul Rhys (Theodore 'Theo' Van Gogh),  Adrian Brine (Uncle Cent),  Jean-Franois Perrier (Lon Boussod),  Yves Dangerfield (Ren Valadon),  Hans Kesting (Andries Bonger),  Peter Tuinman (Anton Mauve),  Marie Louise Stheins (Jet Mauve),  Oda Spelbos (Ida),  Jip Wijngaarden (Sien Hoornik),  Anne Canovas (Marie),  Sarah Bentham (Marie Hoornik),  Jean-Denis Monory (Emile Bernard),  Johanna ter Steege (Jo Bonger),  Jean-Pierre Castaldi ('Pere' Tanguy).

A very good movie about the love between two brothers, the famous painter Vincent Van Gogh and his brother Theo. Theo was very dedicated to his ill brother and died just two years after the death of Vincent.  Nice way to follow Vincent's biography.


Spoiler Warning:

At an auction a painting by Van Gogh of flowers in a vase gets up to 22.5 million English pounds.  Van Gogh's brother Theo is asking him why he lives in such a hovel?   Van Gogh just says that he will be a painter. So what does Theo think of that?  His answer is:  "Not much."  This answer infuriates Vincent and he gets up and rips into two parts one of his sketches.  He says what he creates is better than that crap Theo sells at Goupil's.  This makes Theo mad and he vehemently denies that what he sells is crap.  Vincent fires back that God is everywhere except in the church and their bloody family.  Theo gets disgusted and leaves.  He comes back to  tell Vincent that the money their father has been sending him is really Theo's money.  Theo now leaves again. 

A young man comes to Goupil's to speak with Theo Van Gogh.  One of the bosses, named Ren Valadon, goes to greet the young fellow, named Andries Bonger.  Uncle Cent goes to get Theo.  Andries Bonger comes around the corner and greets Theo.  Theo then introduces his Uncle Cent to Andries.  Andries and Theo are roommates.  Bonger says it's his understanding that Vincent used to work here.  Uncle Cent scoffs at the idea saying that Vincent would just lounge around criticizing the paintings and offending the clients.

Vincent sketches a young girl in the studio of Anton Mauve.  He likes to pick up ideas from Mauve. 

At night he paints a a portrait half-nude, pregnant woman, called Sien Hoornik.  (some nudity)  He took her as a model partly to help her.  She has one child already, named Maria.  She had two other children but both died. And she says that this pregnancy just doesn't feel right.  Vincent volunteers to take her to the maternity hospital at Leyden in south Holland.  She says okay.  The model takes her break, but Vincent keeps sketching her.  The model says that Vincent can only draw her when she is posing.  He is not supposed to draw the real her.  Vincent apologizes, but after a brief delay keeps on sketching her.

He asks his model to stay over for the night since it's raining.  In fact, he says, she could live here.  She warns Vincent that she has a bad temper and she has to have her daughter Marie with her.  Vincent agrees. 

Theo is at an outdoor restaurant kissing his girlfriend.  Andries Bonger is at the next table and he says hello to Theo.  Vincent now lives on his own.  Theo's girlfriend says she knows someone (namely her) who wants to live with Theo. 

Vincent, Sien and her daughter Maria go to see a 360 degree painting of aa outdoors setting.  It was a team of painters that created the scenes. 

Theo's employers sit him down and offer him a chance to run his own art gallery.  Theo is just absolutely thrilled about the idea. 

Vincent and the girls go to the sea shore.  Vincent sees Mauve there with a model he is including in the scenery.  He says hello to Mauve but the successful painter tells Vincent that he wants nothing to do with him as long as he goes around with that prostitute.  Vincent tells Mauve that he loves the woman.  Getting angry Vincent goes over to Mauve's canvas and smears the paints on it.  Sien walks to the water and Vincent calls after her.  She is in the water squatting as she says the baby is coming right now. 

Theo's girlfriend looks over some of Vincent's sketches and finds them "disgusting".  Theo tells her that Vincent draws what he sees.  

Maria takes care of her young brother.  Sien tells her to fix the potatoes.  Vincent comes in and hears the small boy crying.  He is not pleased that Sien is so indifferent to the welfare of her little boy. 

In his bedroom Theo starts kissing his girlfriend all over.  Sien and Maria are leaving Vincent.  She says half the time she doesn't even understand what Vincent is talking about. 

Theo's girlfriend wants to have sex with him, but he tells her that he is not supposed to have intercourse for two months.  (The poor fellow has syphilis)  This makes the girlfriend angry and she decides to go out with Andries and his girlfriend, leaving Theo behind. 

Sien tells Vincent that he was always trying to change her life.  She doesn't want to change.  She says her life is alright.  She slaps Vincent, kisses him hard on the lips and leaves with her children. 

Vincent is painting an outdoors scene.  He comments:  "Christ.  I hate this place."  Theo visits with Vincent.  He tells him that if he tried to show Vincent's art work in the gallery, Boussod and Valadon would fire him.  Vincent tells his brother that he is coming to Paris.  Theo says that Vincent will probably never be suited to live in Paris.  He throws one of Vincent's paintings to the floor, so Vincent throws another of his paintings at Theo, who now leaves.

Vincent enrolls in an art class.  He and the others are to draw  the nude model before them. (brief nudity) 

Andries introduces his sister Jo (short for Johanna) to Theo.  They have a drink of sherry.  Andries goes into his former bedroom, leaving the two alone.  They have a hard time getting a nice flow of conversation going.  One of the students in the class, Emile Bernard, introduces himself to Vincent, but Vincent is so engrossed in sketching the nude model that he doesn't pay much attention to the fellow. 

Vincent and Theo are at an outdoor restaurant.  Vincent asks his brother to ask Johanna to marry him.  Theo says he would like to, but he just can't.  Vincent says he can't marry her because he has syphilis.  Theo asks Vincent if Papa ever told him how much he sold Guipil's for?  No.   Theo says he must speak to papa. 

Theo is in Amsterdam.  He asks Jo when she will be in Paris again?  She says she has no reason to visit Paris.  Jo wants to know if she is in the future plans of Theo.  Theo tries to discourage her, saying that he is 30 years old and has syphilis.  Jo says her brother told her the part about the syphilis.  Theo kisses her passionately. 

When Theo comes back to Paris, Vincent has the place in a bit of a mess.  This angers Theo and the brothers get into another argument.  Vincent accuses his brother of not even trying to sell Vincent's paintings.  Theo asks if the maid came during his 10 day absence?  Vincent says he fired the maid because he needed the money to buy paints and some Japanese prints.  Then he tells Theo that he should have left him with more money.  Theo gets furious, goes into his room and slams the door closed.  Vincent goes over to the door and asks his brother if he did ask Jo to marry him?  Theo shouts:  "No!!"  Theo thinks that the syphilis is a huge obstacle. 

Vincent is introduced by an art dealer to the painter Paul Gauguin.  Vincent tells Paul that he likes his paintings very much.  Paul grew up in Lima, Peru.  His people were viceroys from the family of Borgias of Aragon. 

At home Vincent tells Theo that he wants to move south to Provence and Paul might come with him.  He asks if Theo has a little extra money for Gauguin who is broke.  Theo says he does not have the funds.

Vincent takes a walk in the countryside.  Afterwards he goes to a tavern to have a drink. 

Theo tells Gauguin that Vincent would love to have Paul with him in Provence, but Paul says he has no money.  So Theo mentions to Paul that their uncle has just recently died and left his nephews a small sum of money.  Theo tells Gauguin that he can have the money and go to Provence with it.

Vincent paints in a big field of giant sunflowers.  He doesn't like his painting, so he smears paint across it.  He goes wild and trashes the painting. 

Paul comes down the street looking for Vincent's place.  Vincent sees him coming and rushes down to greet him.  After they meet again, Vincent shows Paul to his room.  Later the two go outdoors to paint.

Back in Paris Theo gets extremely frustrated with his job and is rude to a co-worker and the three possible buyers with him. 

Paul and Vincent go to a brothel.  Later Vincent starts cooking.  Paul finds the kitchen too messy to work in.  He throws away what Vincent was cooking and prepares cheese on tomato with basil and salt.  Vincent is not pleased with Paul's criticisms.  He says that Paul doesn't like his paintings and goes upstairs to his bedroom.  Later Vincent tells Paul that he is not mad, but Paul is making him mad. 

Paul goes down to the tavern and the proprietor screams at him to get Vincent out of her establishment.  Vincent is painting the face of a young, pretty woman.  Paul has to manhandle Vincent in order to get him out of the place.  Vincent says if Paul ever does that again to him, he will kill Paul. 

At home, after Vincent sobers up, he goes into Paul's room and finds him sleeping.  When Paul awakens, Vincent asks him what has happened?  Paul says Vincent got pissed at him and threatened to kill him.  Now Paul tells Vincent that he is going back to Paris.  Vincent tells him he can't leave.  He gets on top of Paul and shows him the huge knife he has in his hand.  Then Vincent puts the tip of the blade way into his mouth, hinting at suicide.  Now Vincent kisses Paul hard.  Paul doesn't get mad.  He just tells Vincent to go out so he can get some sleep. 

Vincent pushes all the paint brushes from off his table.   He suddenly yells out:  "Theo!" 

Theo is busy kissing Jo all over.  Andries comes to the door and Jo hides in the back room.  Andries knows his sister is here and he calls for her to come out.  She comes out and sits down.  Theo tells Andries that they ate getting married.  They have a toast of champagne to a long and happy life.   Theo then kisses Jo passionately. 

Paul leaves.  As he goes away he sees Vincent in just his long pants and shoes. Paul pulls out of his cane a very long and pointed instrument preparing a defense against the mad Dutchman.  Vincent just walks past him.  He goes back into his bedroom and cuts off part of his left earlobe.  He then tastes his own blood on his shaving blade. 

Theo gets a telegram telling him to come to Provence to see his brother who has been hurt.  Paul is leaving, but Theo says he must stay with Vincent.  Paul says Vincent is completely mad.  Theo slaps him for this.  Paul gives a little chuckle and says that the whole Van Gogh family wants to destroy him. 

Theo goes to see Vincent in the hospital.  Afterwards he tells Jo that the doctor says that there can be a recurrence of this type of behavior.  He suggests putting Vincent into the mental hospital at St. Remy.  Theo starts crying about his brother being in an asylum.

In the asylum, the doctor tells Vincent that he will always have to be under a doctor's care from now on. 

Jo is pregnant.  She wants to know more details about Vincent in the hospital, but Theo says that the letters from Vincent to him are private.  He doesn't want her to read Vincent's letters. 

Vincent is allowed outside to paint. 

Theo is introduced to Dr. Gachet.   The doctor grabs his daughter Marguerite and introduces her to Theo.  After the introductions, Gachet tells Theo to get his brother out of that asylum in St. Remy.  He suggests that Theo send Vincent to him at Auvers, where he lives, so he can keep an eye on him. 

At home, Jo tells her husband that she wrote a letter to Vincent.  Theo has no time to react to this, because now Jo tells him he better call for the doctor, because the baby is coming. 

Vincent gets a showing of his work.  Dr. Gachet is very happy for Vincent.  Now the doctor takes Vincent over to his room which will be at the Cafe Ravoux.  Vincent meets Mrs. Ravoux.  After this Vincent is taken to see the doctor's house.  Vincent meets the doctor's daughter Marguerite and we see that the doctor tends to talk over his daughter and dismiss her thoughts. 

Theo and Jo with their baby come to visit Vincent at Dr. Gachet's house.  The doctor boasts that Vincent is no longer sick. 

Theo asks for a raise. He says he all he wants is a decent salary for a 33 year old married man with a child. The request falls on deaf ears.

Marguerite asks Vincent if he would like her to model in the nude for him.  Vincent says he can't do that.  Marguerite's father hears what she said and he tells his daughter that she is getting to close to Vincent.  He says the man is incurable.  It's a hopeless case.  Vincent hears what the doctor tells his daughter.  He just stands there doing nothing. 

There is friction in Theo's household.  They live on the fourth floor and Jo finds it hard walking about the stairs with a baby in her arms.  Vincent comes over and a sarcastic Jo tells Theo that she will take the child, so Theo can feed his brother.  Vincent feels the tension in the air and he feels bad for his brother and his wife. 

Vincent is out in the wheat field again preparing to begin painting.  He starts but quickly stops.  He has a pistol with him.  He walks a ways over from his easel and shoots himself in the right side just above his waist.  He walks back to town and by now his right side is covered with blood.  He walks back to his room.  The customers see Vincent and soon Theo is called.  He visits Vincent in his bed.  Vincent asks his brother to fix his pipe up for him.  Theo gets the tobacco, but when he looks at Vincent again, he discovers that Vincent is dead.  Theo starts crying over his brother. 

Dr. Gachet speaks at the funeral about his liking Vincent very much. Theo gets angry and leaves the ceremony.  He walks to the wheat field to look at where Vincent shot himself. 

At home Theo says to Jo that he can't pee anymore.  Theo has decided to put Vincent's painting all over the walls of his apartment.  He wants people who care about Vincent to come and see what Vincent created.  Jo is not very supportive of Theo, because she is thinking of the money involved.  Theo gets so exasperated with Jo that he tells her to take her baby and go back to Holland.  Jo leaves.  Now Theo grabs his brother-in-law and throws him out of the room. 

Theo finds himself in an asylum completely nude, asking Vincent to help him.  Theo dies and is buried next to his brother.  Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890), 37 years old, and Theodore Van Gogh (1857-1891), 34 years of age.


Good movie.  Great acting by Tim Roth as Vincent Van Gogh.  Paul Rhys as Theodore 'Theo' Van Gogh was also good.  The two brothers, Vincent and Theo, were very close with each other.  Perhaps Theo was a bit too obsessed with his brother, because he did at times seem to care more for his brother than either his wife or child.  This led to a lot of friction in Theo's household.  Another sign that Theo was too close to his brother is that he died so soon after Vincent died.  It's an interesting psychiatric phenomenon and I wish they could have show how the too close relationship developed. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:


See Lust for Life (1956).



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