There is a fantastic episode of Doctor Who titled: Vincent and the Doctor. The basic premise is that the current incarnation of The Doctor and his companion, Amy Pond, travel to Provence in 1890 in order to hunt down a monster haunting the Church at Auvers.
As you may know, Vincent van Gogh was known for his “artistic temperament” of extreme highs and extreme lows suggesting that he suffered from bipolar disorder. If you watch the episode, you may see van Gogh in a familiar light. At least I do.
I always cry when I watch this episode. Tony Curran does an impressive job of portraying Vincent van Gogh. He portrays van Gogh as sensitive, passionate, determined and strong, yet so susceptible to the moods that claim us all. When The Doctor tells Vincent that he and Amy will be leaving when the job is done, Vincent leaves the room and falls into a screaming, crying fit. It’s heart-wrenching. It’s familiar. How many times have I done that in my life? I haven’t a clue. And I don’t think I would like the number if I could count them all.
Vincent van Gogh must have seen the world in such a spectacular way: full of both beauty and pain. One quote from the episode is, “It seems to me, there is so much more to the world than the average eye is allowed to see. I believe, if you look hard, there are more wonders in this universe than you could ever have dreamed of.” Van Gogh saw the world in all of its magnificence. Perhaps because of our bipolar we too can see more of the world than the average person. More of the pain. More of beauty. We certainly feel more – the deepest, darkest pain of depression and the brightest, bursting pleasure of mania.
“It’s color! Color that holds the key! I can hear the colors.” The ravings of a mad man or of an artistic genius? Or both? Vincent continues, “Every time I step outside, I feel nature is shouting at me: Come on! Come and get me! Come on! Capture my mystery!” Have you ever felt like that? I have. I feel that way about photography. I will see an object or a composition – an image that impresses upon my mind and begs me to photograph it. Sculpture virtually screams at me. Am I mad too?
Lying in a field with Amy and the Doctor, Vincent describes how he sees the world, summarizing with, “Everywhere we look, the complex magic of nature blazes before our eyes.” The Doctor then replies with, “I’ve seen many things my friend, but you’re right. Nothing quite as wonderful as the things you see.”
That’s the point, isn’t it? The normals will never see what we see. They will never feel what we feel. But that’s what makes us special. I think, in a good way.
I’ll leave you with a final quote from the episode. This occurs between the Doctor and a curator at the Museum d’Orsay, 2010:
The Doctor: Between you and me, in a hundred words, where do you think van Gogh rates in the history of art?
Curator: Well… um… big question, but to me, Van Gogh is the finest painter of them all. Certainly the most popular, great painter of all time. The most beloved, his command of colour most magnificent. He transformed the pain of his tormented life into ecstatic beauty. Pain is easy to portray, but to use your passion and pain to portray the ecstasy and joy and magnificence of our world, no one had ever done it before. Perhaps no one ever will again. To my mind, that strange, wild man who roamed the fields of Provence was not only the world’s greatest artist, but also one of the greatest men who ever lived.”
Note: all quotes are property of the BBC and the television production Doctor Who. Any errors in transcription are mine alone and my apologies are extended to the creators.
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