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I decided to purchase this DVD after I read the famous book by Tracy Chevalier (as I heard Scarlett Johansson was going to star in the film). It was an extremely good read and the DVD reflected the book well in some places, but not all.
Set in Holland, a young girl called Griet (Scarlett Johansson) gains work at a painter's house, but once Vermeer (Colin Firth) introduced her to his world of colour and perception, she struggles to discover herself, resist temptation and find love.
The opening scene of the film reflects the detailed description found in the book which I loved. The character of Griet is also developed quickly through the action and we grow to like her instantly.
However, as the film progresses, the detail of the story fade, instead focussing on the storyline of the artist and Griets love. Many other aspects were simply left out and unmentioned. Griets Brothers and Sisters? Where are they?
Whilst I understand that it has to appeal in the form of a film, I wish they had made the film longer to include those aspects, as having read the book, you feel robbed that these things aren't mentioned.
Scarlett Johansson does a fab job as Griet- she doesn't say much but through her body language, she portrays the role very well. I may be biased, but I think many people will agree that she did a good job and was very memorable for this role.
The ending was simply too short and far too sudden. It did not follow the book's complete ending, which I really didn't like. How I wish it had.
Overall, it was a good film to watch. The film's main focus was Griet and the Artist's Love NOT the storyline of the book as such. AS that is the main aspect, details such as her family were insignificant. EVERYTHING from the setting to the cast was great. If only it had fully stuck to the story it would be AMAZING.
Gorl With a Pearl Earring is set in 1665 in the home of the famous Dutch painter Vermeer, Colin Firth plays the man and Scarlett Johansson plays a young servant called Griet who goes to work in his house. Her beauty provides the inspiration for his painting of the films title however this causes conflict in his house with his jealous wife Catharina played by Essie Davis. Thriown into the pot you also have the wealthy benefactor of Vermeer, Pieter Von Ruijven played by Tom Wilkinson who belives that his money and power means that he can take anything that he desires.
The dialogue in this film is perhaps it major strength and it certainly is an emotional and powerful drama with some good performances. Johansson plays the young naive girl who experiences a sexual awakening with great authority and she is ably supported by strong performances from both Firth and Wilkinson.
There are some nice tense moments between Greit and Vermeer that develop slowly and build up and the two perormed well together.
The film can be a bit heavy in places and this darkness is not helped by a rather turgid musical score, there was a dullness about the scenery that sometimes clashed with the rather bright clothing worn and this took a bit of getting used to at first.
Overall I did enjoy this film as it has a lot to offer however you do have to be in the right mood to enjoy it as it can be a bit heavy going at times. Whether it is worth all the hype and awards nominations it received I'm not so sure, maybe it was a quiet year.
*Film only review*
Girl with a Pearl Earring is a movie I've wanted to see for years. Seven years, in fact. Starring Colin Firth and Scarlett Johansson and nominated for countless awards, I was sure it was going to be a success in my books.
Unfortunately, this was one of those films that is so worthy and high-brow that it's impossible to properly enjoy!
The plot is very simple. A young servant named Griet (Scarlett Johansson) starts working in the house of the painter Johannes Vermeer (Colin Firth). He soon spots her and she becomes his inspiration for a new painting. His Wife, Catharina (Essie Davis), has insecurities which lead to a jealousy of Griet, thus potentially interfering with Johannes's new work of art. There are also complications bought about by Johannes's patron, Pieter Van Ruijven (Tom Wilkinson) who has so much power and lust that he believes he can have anything he wants.
I found the character of Griet rather underwhelming. Scarlett Johansson has little dialogue for much of the film and her presence wasn't strong enough for me. She created a few moments of brilliance and yes, her role was convincing. However, I'd expected Johansson to give a show-stopping performance, after gaining such critical acclaim.
Griet, as the main protagonist, takes the most prominent journey, as her character becomes less quiet, less eager to please and undergoes a sexual awakening. I must admit, it was nice to see her get some colour in her cheeks, as she discovers the joys of painting and an old-fashioned camera.
Her character has two main relationships of differing intensities, with both Johannes and the Butcher's son, Pieter, played by Cillian Murphy.
The role of Peiter was not particularly original, (you know, the typical boy-meets-girl, girl isn't sure, but eventually gets with boy) but I felt Murphy did the best with what he was given. His character was clear and his playful nature charming. Also, I think his youthful, almost elvish looks and bright blue eyes bought something additional to his scenes, whilst contrasting effectively with Johannes Vermeer.
Colin Firth filmed Girl with a Pearl Earring in the same year as Love Actually. He certainly looked the part of the creative painter, which his striking long hair helped with. It reminded me of Johnny Depp too, which is never a bad thing!
The relationship between Johannes and Griet is so gradual that I seldom felt excited or captured by it. There are moments of tension that are somewhat interesting, but they never go anywhere, which is particularly frustrating viewing.
The age gap between the characters is never mentioned, but as Griet looks so very young, I think it would be fair to question Johannes's motivations. There are hints to him being turned off by his wife because of her more mature age, whereas it is made clear that Griet is, shall we say, "pure." Nevertheless, this romantic liaison is never really presented as anything even slightly malicious, which I find to be questionable.
Essie Davis as Catharina fulfils her role adequately. Although initially cold and heartless, we begin to understand and feel some sympathy towards the character as the story progresses.
Tom Wilkinson was perhaps underused as the only sort of villain in the tale. One scene he is in is rather shocking, but other than that I didn't feel the character was essential to the plot.
I was quite surprised how much the age of the DVD showed! Considering its only seven years old, the picture quality was significantly worse then films released more recently. Looking at this from a positive perspective, at least it shows how far we've come on.
I wasn't sure about all the costumes. For a period piece, I just felt like some of them jarred slightly, seeming too odd or extravagant.
Although Girl with a Pearl Earring is set in 1665, the language was easy to understand. I reckon all members of the family would have a fair understanding of what was going on, but I don't think many would be fully entertained by it. Especially those with a shorter attention span!
The film takes quite a little while to get going and when it does its still at a snail pace. Pace is certainly the main element of this movie which could have definitely been improved!
The music was regularly dismal and sometime was too noticeable. Therefore rather than creating a subtle effect, it tended to dominate.
The lighting was better than average and often did very well to enhance the overall mood of a scene. For instance, the bright warmth of the feast suggested wealth and security. This then contrasted excellently with the following scene set in the grey cobbled streets in the pouring rain -something that the servants had to brave no matter what.
Most scenes, however, were rather dull and many were very similar to one another. I do remember one scene with a difference though. It was beautifully shot, soaring over a lake and darting in between trees, before gracing itself upon Pieter and Griet.
Even the best performance displayed pretty standard acting ability. I am someone who quite likes dramas, but this one definitely needed a bit of comedy to spice things up.
As you can probably tell, this was a film that I was less than impressed with. Girl with a Pearl Earring lacks lots of thing, but largely I think the story was unoriginal and predictable. I wanted to like this film, but it was near impossible. Not recommended.
WOW,I see that the average rating of this film on dooyoo is 5stars! I had this film for a long time but finally watched it the other day and boy was I disappointed! I was expecting a slow-ish drama but it turned out to be even slower.Directed by Peter Webber,it stars Scarlett Johansson,Colin Firth and Tom Wilkinson.
Colin Firth plays 17th century painter Johannes Vameer who finds a friend/muse in the new maid Grete played by Scarlett Johansson. When Pieter Van Ruiyen(Tom Wilkinson) wants Colin to paint a new portrait for him,he is at a loss of inspiration and gets interested in Grete who seems to know much about art. The interaction between Vameer's wife and the maid also adds a backdrop to the story.
The story is not poignant and stays very slow in pace. Such a slow paced film needs an appealing story and the fact that it is a period drama made it less appealing. I loved Shakespeare in Love and i actually thought this would be somewhere close to that film but its not! The story fails to move ahead and seems almost static. Even the performances seem to be almost plastic and expressionless. The film does have its moments of brilliance but they do not add up to create a strong impact.Watch out for the scene involving Tom Wilkinson when he tries to physically abuse the maid and is stopped midway.
I didn't find it good enough to be called art house,neither is it for the mass audience who would atleast want some entertainment from their films.
I'd enjoyed the original book of Girl With a Pearl Earring to a point, but found the writing pretty clunky & the whole storyline a bit forced, so I was prepared to be even less impressed by the film.
I was pleasantly surprised, though. Set in the 17th Century Netherlands, it stars Scarlett Johansson as Griet, the quiet, reserved girl sent to work as a maid in the house of the artist Vermeer. With an eye for colour & composition she becomes secretly more & more involved in his work, & the bond between them grows.
It's an early role for Johansson but I was still expecting her to be a bit superstar-ish in it. Instead she's a joy to watch, & carries the film with some restrained, mesmerising acting.
She's surrounded by some great characters, including Tom Wilkinson as the slimy patron who commissions a portrait of Griet, & Judy Parfitt as Vermeer's imposing mother-in-law who realises there's something afoot between master & servant but needs to keep him working & the money coming in.
The only unconvincing part for me was Colin Firth, who does posh Englishman very well but looked most uncomfortable with long hair & a paintbrush in his hand.
Luckily any faults in the film were completely outweighed by the stunning photography: wintry Delft is so real you culd be transported there, & the use of the clear light & pale colours is breathtaking at times, especially in the scenes in the artist's studio which recreate his paintings.
The pace is slow & dreamy but not dull, & the story is gripping. A gorgeous, enthralling film that made me want to head straight for an art gallery.
This is a film which I have wanted to see for some time and finally managed to get hold of the DVD from Amazon and watch it last night. I do also have the book but as I have not read it yet I cannot make any comparison as to how well it has been adapted for the film.
The film is set in Holland in the last 18th Century and shows us a young lady called Griet who is asked by her family to take a job working as a maid for the Vermerr household. Johannes Vermeer is a painter and soon Griet is given the job of looking after his studio and making sure it is clean without moving any of the items in there. Griet's father is also an old artist so she has an insight into the mind of one and how the light and composition works and soon she finds she is influencing Johannes work.
Griet soon finds she has an admirer in the form of the butches son from the local market and the pair start to spend their free time together but Griet has torn emotions as she is getting closer to Johannes. As Johannes is given his next commission from, his wealthy friend he finds that he cannot take the job but suggests a different paining instead which will involve him paining Griet much to the annoyance of his wife who does not like this suggestion. The cracks in his marriage start to show as he start spending time with Griet.
What will become of the marriage and the feelings which Griet and Johannes have for each other and will the paining be a success so the family will not become bankrupt?
I really did enjoy this film and thought it was just as good as I was expecting. Scarlett Johansson took the role of Griet and I think that she did an amazing job, the way she bought her character to life was super and I really did believe in her. She managed to put across her naivety extremely well and show her innocence. Colin Firth played the role of Johannes Vermeer and although I did not like his long hair I still though he did a wonderful job and he also made his character come alive and very believable. I think that the pair worked extremely well together and had a great chemistry which was put across in the film. The supporting actors and actresses all did a super job and made the film better and did in fact give it a little bit more depth. The only character which I did not like was Maria, the mother of Johannes wife, there was just something about her presence which made me not like her but then again she was a big part in the finishing of the painting so she cant have been all bad!
As I said at the beginning this film was set in the late 18th century in Holland and I think that the director managed to show us this time extremely well. All of the sets and costumes fitted in very well and all looked very authentic. I did find it a little strange though that all of the characters did speak with British accents, then again I think that I might have been put off from watching if they all spoke with dodgy Dutch accents so this may have been a good choice. I did enjoy seeing the canals all frozen in the very cold winter and I think this showed the extent of the detail which was added to this film.
One thing which had no impact on me in this film was the soundtrack and thinking back now I cannot remember hearing any music at all so it really cant have been very memorable the songs which were used.
I did find that this film managed to pull at my heart strings for some reason and the story with forbidden and wrong love was put across in such a way it did have an impact on my feeling and this shows how well the actors did in their roles. I did find I was willing the characters to be able to be together despite it being so wrong.
The DVD which I have does have some bonus material which includes:-
The Making of the Girl with the Pearl Earring
Director / Producer Commentary
Writer / Screen Writer commentary
Anatomy of a scene Documentary
As I really do not have any interest in these bonus features I have not watched them so cannot give any comments on them.
The running time of this film is 95 minutes which I found to be a good length. Hubby did find that he found the film was slightly slow but I did not find this and enjoy the pace at which it moved and enjoyed seeing the story play out the way it did. The certificate on this film is a 12 which I do agree with.
This DVD is available to buy on Amazon for just under £5 which I felt to be a great price. I am looking forward to reading the book now so I can see just how well or poorly the film was adapted from it.
Overall I do recommend this film as it is highly enjoyable and the story is put across in a wonderful way by such good actors.
"He had a vision no one saw as clearly as she. In a house where everything had its place, where every image had meaning, he gave her the power to see the light. She gave him a look that would last forever....."
I studied Johannes Vermeer in Art History at college and was fascinated by the story (or should that be stories) of the subject of his painting 'Girl with a pearl earring'. The mystery being despite her wearing what could only be the clothing of a servant she has a huge pearl earring in one ear....
Most artists of the time paid prostitutes by the hour to pose for them, Vermeer apparently painted a maid he was in love with. This is all just a story of course, nobody has any proof of what went on and this film is based on the novel by Tracy Chevalier who concocted this fancy tale which may or may not be true.
And so the story of the girl with the pearl earring begins....
Seventeen year old Griet becomes a maid in the house of famous artist Johannes Vermeer, being a pretty girl she soon catches her masters eye and although worlds apart in every way the two begin to fall for each other. She becomes more interested in his work and he even allows her to clean his studio which is a shock to his wife who herself isn't even allowed to set foot in there.
A man named Van Ruijven is Vermeers biggest patron and he himself is quite enamoured by young Griet, he commisons Vermeer to paint him a portrait of the maid. He keeps this a secret from his pregnant, long suffering wife and grabs any second he can with the pretty maid in the attic.
Vermeers mother in law knows what is going on, trying to save their family she allows Vermeer to develop his relationship with Griet as she inspires him to paint and therefore make money, something the famiy is running short of!
Griet is played by the lovely Scarlett Johansson, I am a big fan of hers anyway as she is such a chameleon, although it would be easy for her to always be cast as the sexy voluptuous one; in this film she plays young and innocent so easily.
She is understatedly beautiful in the part and you can understand why Vermeer would fall for her charms.
Colin Firth plays Johannes Vermeer and captures the passionate, moody artist part perfectly.
Somehow you can't hate him for loving someone other than his wife as despite his tempers he seems a good man, passionate about his art.
The on-screen chemistry between the two is electric to watch despite them not doing much more than touching each others faces.
Their love is an innocent love which is heart-warming to watch.
The film takes place in 1665, a time in history with many great artists.
The scenery is a gorgeous back-drop to this love story, set in 17th century Netherlands, the canals and fields are breathtaking. The simplicity of the time reflected in each scene. Girl with a pearl earring was filmed in both Luxembourg and the UK for some scenes.
What many people may not know is that the entire movie is a cinematic painting but not just because it is a movie about the beauty of one painting, but because it is a movie entirely constructed from paintings. The actors would walk around a room and then at one point, hit their destination
precisely to capture that one moment reflected in the painting from which the scene was taken. This film is a great masterpiece for the art direction alone!
If you look at stills of the film you can then transfer these images into a piece of art by a 17th century artist- a very clever addition for any art fan to an already beautiful film!
Its uncanny how much Johansson looks like the girl in the real painting; All doe eyed innocence and pale skin, check out the painting if you're not familiar with it and compare it to the DVD cover.
A film full of passion and forbidden love, I love anything from this era anyway and am a big fan of the times art but my fiance isn't so fussed for either and still enjoyed this film.
Highly recommended for all.
Available for £4.99 from HMV.com.
Running time: 95 minutes.
Johannes Vermeer was a Dutch Baroque artist who was born in Delft and had a great love of the colours blue and yellow. One of his famous paintings is The Girl with the Pearl Earring or otherwise known as the Dutch Mona Lisa or Mona Lisa of the North. A book written by Tracy Chevalier explores the life of the woman who is believed to be the subject of this famous portrait. After sourcing material regarding Vermeer's life Chevalier invented a plot filled with subdued passion, artistic observation and class prejudice.
In 2003, director, Peter Webber made a beautiful film based on this stimulating and exciting novel with the help of two gifted actors, Colin Firth and Scarlett Johansson. In his film he recreates a vivid portrait of 17th century Holland, where a young 17 year old girl, called Griet finds herself working as a maid in the Vermeer's household. It is Griet's job to keep everything in the studio spotlessly clean and tidy, at the same time, making sure nothing is moved out of place, so as not to disturb or trouble the artist. Griet's perceptive insight about light and composition lead to a predictable influence on his work. Her silent movements and unassuming manner impress him deeply. Most of his life he is surrounded by selfish and conceited relatives and patrons, thus Griet's tame and gentle spirit inspires him and he is powerfully drawn towards her.
In Webber's film, Johansson plays the role of a young woman with supressed emotions who is not held in high esteem and is neglected. Suddenly she is noticed by an observant but unhappy older man. This role is very similar to the one she played in the film, Lost in Translation. In both stories, the developing relationship leads to infidelity, and as ill-advised as it might be, it draws the cracks of an established marriage into the open.
The plot is not as complex as Lost in Translation and in my view, not as engaging. However, the film is worth watching for the dense "artistic" cinematography. It takes you into Vermeer's world where everything is more perfect than it actually is and outside into 17th century Holland. Eduardo Serra is a fine cinematographer and he has to be applauded for his use of rich light and shadows. The set and costumes are inspired by Vermeer's work and exquiste detail has been implemented to make everything look authentic. When I first saw the film a few years ago I was under the impression that it was all filmed in Delft as this is where the painter was born and actually died there but but according to IMBD the other locations were Belgium and Luxembourg.
Scarlett Johansson is superb in her role. Although silent throughout most of the film she communicates through very little and the only other actress I know who can do this is Juliette Binoche. The director manages to capture the intelligence and emotion hidden behind her dark eyes - eyes that seem to belong to an older and more experienced woman than her young self. In doing so, he finds the exact passion and spirit that exists within the painting. So, when we actually see the finished painting, we don't blink; it is perfectly acceptable that this is what an artist would paint after looking at Scarlett for so many hours. She is so expresssive in an almost nonverbal role.
I was really impressed with Colin Firth's portrayal of Vermeer. He brought the same amount of gravity to the screen as Johansson and I wouldn't have thought he was capable to portray an introspective, thoughtful and passionate painter, but he makes the serious, moody figure fascinating without making him laughably sullen.
The supporting cast is strong due to contributions from Tom Wilkinson who plays the wealthy, debauched patron who keeps the Vermeer household together and in one piece. Essie Davis is Catharina, Vermeer's tall and elegant wife who possesses a great beauty and an explosive temper; and Judy Parfitt as Catherina's mother, a dominant figure whose evil, over-bearing manner is cracked by the brittleness of her financial condition.
Watching the film I found myself slipping into a thoughtful and reflective state which few films allow me to reach. I was totally absorbed with the screen. Even though hardly any words are spoken and very little action is achieved, there are critical things happening in every minute of the film: inquisitiveness is developed, risks are taken, secret endeavours, disclosures. The director invites us to look closely for signs of emotion and implications of betrayal or compasion. The film never preaches to us about art, but does implore us to observe.
The main thread of the film, in my view, is all about being seen. This poor, violated unnoticed girl never purposefully does anything to draw the artist's attention; in fact she actually avoids his stare. But when his sharp vision catches in her a true spirit and shared longing - not for sensual adventures but for beauty and divine truth - it is as if her eyes are at last open.
In my view, Johansson is superb as the silent, unassuming girl who can sit still for hours on end - she really is. The lighting and sets are outstanding - and I have to give Serra full marks for his work and the way he captivated the Dutch style but the film is very slow paced. Now, I don't mind this but my husband thought it was boring and he lost interest half way through the film. If you like a gentle film, the actors, Firth and Johansson, and you enjoy great cinematography and art then I think you will enjoy the film.
Ive been meaning to watch this film for a while, without realising that it starred Scarlett Johansson; as soon as I realised, I was all the more determined to see it. Once again, she didnt let me down. I have to admit to being totally ignorant about Vermeer, but no background knowledge is necessary to understand the film. It is well worth watching and I am now looking forward to reading the book by Tracy Chevalier on which the film was based.
Griet, a young girl from a poor family, becomes a servant girl at the house of artist Johannes Vermeer in Delft, Holland. Requested by Mrs Vermeer to clean her husbands studio, Griet becomes fascinated by her masters paintings. Eventually, she attracts Vermeers attention; he recognises her love and understanding of art and she inspires him to work on a new painting. Griet, in turn, slowly begins to fall under his spell. Vermeers patron, recognising the inspiration that Griet provides him with, commissions him to paint Griets portrait.
Vermeers mother-in-law, Maria, along with his wife, are furious that a servant girl can have this effect on Vermeer. However, Maria soon recognises that Griets involvement with Vermeer has a miraculous result on his ability to work and therefore to earn money, of which the family are short, and so begins to actively encourage the relationship. Soon it is clear that Griets portrait is a masterpiece, but will she and Vermeer be able to cope with the repercussions?
Scarlett Johansson, as Griet, is flawless. She is a very natural actress and doesnt really need to do a great deal in order to get her meaning across just as well because there is actually very little speech in the role. This is not a role in which attractiveness is key, and in fact she looks quite plain, which just highlights her talents as an actress. The film is all about lust and she manages to portray all this without losing her innocence.
I wasnt so sure about Colin Firth as Vermeer. I think he has become stereotyped into a Bridget Jones/Pride and Prejudice type of role and this just didnt seem to fit in. The role seemed too raw, moody and passionate for him. He didnt do a bad job by any means, but I just didnt feel comfortable with him in the role.
I did love Judy Parfitt as the mother-in-law Maria. She is a horrible old battle-axe who rules the family with an iron rod and only agrees to let Vermeers relationship with Griet continue because it suited her own purposes. She wore very heavy white make-up (I presume this was this the fashion of the times), which was very effective against her dark hair.
Other less significant roles in the film are Vermeers patron Van Ruijven, played by Tom Wilkinson; his wife, played by Essie Davis and the housekeeper, Tanneke, played by Joanna Scanlon. Tom Wilkinson and Essie Davis were suitably obnoxious, but I particularly liked Joanna Scanlon, who took on her role with gusto. A mention must also be given to Cillian Murphy, who played Griets boyfriend, Pieter; although his role was small, he did it well and he is gorgeous to boot.
Length of film: 95 minutes
(1) The Making of Girl with a Pearl Earring. I found this documentary very interesting; it provided a lot of background information, particularly on how the actors were introduced to Vermeers work in order to develop their characters and how the set was made. However, it wasnt particularly well made it looks like it was filmed from the back of a bicycle. (15 minutes)
(2) Deleted scenes. Unnecessary.
(3) Theatrical trailer. Unnecessary.
(4) Director/Producer commentary. Tedious.
(5) Writer/screenwriter commentary. I loved this film, but had no desire to watch it again to listen to first the director and producers commentary and then again with the writer/screenwriter. Couldnt they at least have merged the two commentaries?!
(6) Anatomy of a scene documentary. Interviews with the cast and director, author etc about the making of a particular scene and how it was adapted from the book. It was interesting, but I wouldnt have missed it if it wasnt there. (22 minutes) Watch this and The Making, dont bother with any of the other extras.
This film is a masterpiece. I loved everything about it; the screenplay, the acting, the cinematography together all contributed to its brilliance. The only criticisms I have are the use of Colin Firth, who I think was miscast in this role and the extras, some of which were interesting, but could have been so much better. But Scarlett Johannson more than made up for this. Yet again, she has taken a role and made it her own. It is rare that I watch films because of an actor or actress, but I look forward to seeing more examples of her work in the future.
I think the costumes deserve a mention I have no idea of what people of that time wore, but the clothes certainly looked great. The cameras attention to detail was superb, from the chopping up of vegetables, to the blending together of colours for painting. I also really enjoyed the setting of the film, which was filmed in Delft and Luxemburg; the architecture is superb and really helped make the film more realistic.
The DVD is available from play.com for £6.99, well worth the money in my book.
Girl With a Pearl Earring is based on the novel by Tracy Chevalier. Its a fairly unrealistic interpretation of what may have happened between the painter Vermeer and his most famous model, the anonymous girl of the title. What makes the painting so unusual is that unlike most of Vermeers paintings is that the subject stares right out at us, and although Vermeer painted a few like that, it was more usual to have his subjects not looking straight out from his paintings. Also, unlike most of his paintings, the background in the painting is painted pitch black, where usually Vermeer painted backgrounds. These unusual traits, combined with her very unique beauty and the look of incredible intensity painted upon the girls face, have served to make her a subject of fascination and mystery to us, and make this possibly the artists most famous painting. But enough about the painting, lets talk about the film.
The beautiful Scarlett Johansson takes the title role; a maid named Griet, and Colin Firth is the painter Vermeer. Griet is the daughter of a tile painter with failing eyesight, and because of his inability to provide for his family, she has to become a maid to keep her family in bread, not just for any old rich family though, she is to work for the house of Vermeer. The Vermeer household consists of abrupt maid Tanneke, Vermeers jealous wife Catherine, the formidable but incredibly smart Maria Thins, and multiple little Vermeers, including snidey and spiteful Cornelia who has a nasty streak belying her appealing face. Finding herself buying from a new butcher, Griet finds herself the star attraction of the household to the butchers handsome son, Pieter. She also finds herself the apple of the creepy, sleazebag Van Ruijvens eye. As Vermeers patron and purchaser of most his paintings, Vermeer finds himself powerless to protect Griet against Van Ruijvens advances. Vermeer himself begins to find himself attracted to Griets considerable charm, her quiet manner and her unspoken understanding of his art and the mystical worlds of colour and light. He begins having her secretly assisting him in mixing his colours and after Van Ruijven decides he wants a painting of the lovely Griet, her master begins to immortalise her on canvas. All of this is carried on behind the back of Catherine, who is jealous of the women that Vermeer paints. The result will be a stunning painting and Vermeers most famous piece, but at what cost?
Peter Webbers sumptuous drama is nearly as beautiful to look at as Vermeers painting. The film was clearly designed to look like a painting, and the way that light and dark is used (light being a very important feature of Vermeers work) is nothing short of genius. The set is also so carefully arranged and the entire movie looks absolutely stunning and totally lush. Despite being clad in fairly unflattering garb throughout the movie, and having her eyebrows waxed off to look more like the subject of the real painting, Scarlett Johansson has never looked more beautiful than in this film, and she should stick to whoever did the lighting for this movie like glue. The sets are largely clad in browns and greys, but with brilliant flashes of colour like Cornelias beautiful red hair and the pearl earring itself, again alluding to the famous painting with its browns and blacks and the flash of the pearl earring and the blue and yellow headwear the model wears. This is the best thing about the film, the way it looks. Unfortunately the acting and the storyline dont quite meet up to the standards that the stunning set and lighting design sets.
Scarlett Johansson was clearly chosen at least in part for this role because of her old-fashioned beauty and her similarity to the girl in the painting. Ill be the first to admit I am a huge fan of her work, I though Lost in Translation and Ghost World were amazing, but aside from her innocent and serene beauty and similarity to the model, this role is not best suited for her, she just doesnt have the subtlety. I find very much of Scarletts acting is placed into that throaty voice of hers, and Griet is a girl who doesnt talk very much at all, but rather thinks. The actress playing Griet has to be able to convey a busy mind, constant conflicting thoughts and emotions running over her face, but unfortunately Johanssons Wide-eyed maid simply isnt up to the job. She overacts on quite a regular basis in the film, the way she behaves when men pay her unwanted attention is way over the top, but she is incapable of doing it in a more subtle manner. When she watches colour and light in order to study what Vermeer is secretly teaching her, she just looks bemused and vapid. Its clear that the director deemed her gorgeous husky voice not right for the part and as a result she has a high pitched fake English accent that just sounds awful on her. Her longing looks at Vermeer are about the only part of her performance that really come up to scratch, her already having perfected the desire for an older man in Lost in Translation. Nevertheless, despite her artistic shortcoming, this was always a film that was intended to look beautiful, graceful and quiet and in that part of her role she excels.
Unfortunately I cannot be so forgiving with Colin Firth, I really feel he should stick to the trashy rom coms he usually does instead of trying to take forays into high art. Vermeers role in this film is essentially to act artistic and moody and crave Griet in his dark, artistic manner. Unfortunately, Firths Vermeer feels nothing short of boorish and uncouth, far more a gruff mans man than a quiet, artistic thinker. His little dialogue with Griet is forced and unnatural, and combined with Johanssons trained high pitch, it just doesnt ring true at all. I can think of about fifty actors who would have managed this part better than Firth, and again the only reason I can see that he got the part is that he looks right for it, all dark and mysterious in a sensitive sort of way. So I guess, this being a painting of a film and all, it works, its just a shame that his acting doesnt come anywhere up to par.
The other performances in the movie are a mixed bag too. Tom Wilkinsons Van Ruijven is suitably sleazy, threatening and looming, if slightly overplayed, whereas Essie Davis Catherina is just laughable and over-acted. Cillian Murphy, however, is stunning in the puppydog role of Pieter the butcher boy, and Judy Parfitt steals the show as Maria Thins, the frightening but all-knowing lady who really runs the house and just lets Catherina pretend she is the lady of the house.
The film also suffers from a massively butchered storyline. If you havent read the book you would be forgiven for wondering what the hell is going on, and a quite shifty at the deleted scenes on the DVD will tell you why. Apparently the original cut was somewhere in the region of 300 minutes long so some serious editing had to be done, unfortunately the final cut is just over an hour and a half which is far too short to portray the complicated world in Griets head and the major events in the story which unfold in the book. They could have easily left another twenty or thirty minutes on and had a long, but bearably so, film. As it is several key elements of the book are left out and sadly the film just doesnt work as well without them. If you see the film before you read the book, as I did, you will be lost. As a result the film relies a little too heavily on dramatic tension and not quite enough on storyline, which feels quite jumpy in contrast to the pace and feel of the film. Its easy to tell there is something missing without having read the book.
This all isnt helped by the fact that its hard to understand Griet in the film. In the book the story is told from her point of view, we understand her and shes a wonderful character. Johanssons Griet is a total mystery, we dont understand why she does what she does, which isnt good because Vermeer is supposed to be the mysterious one in the story. This problem could have been solved by using voice-over narration but this would have spoiled the stunning artistic look of the film, so its a bit of a Catch-22, so our Griet remains an enigma.
The DVD features include a directors commentary, writers commentary, making of featurette, anatomy of a scene, UK theatrical trailer and a wealth of deleted scenes which really do help to explain the plot of the film much more. All in all its quite a good package in the DVD if you're a fan of the film.
All in all, it seems to come down to the fact that Johansson looks so wonderful in the role we cant imagine anyone else in it, and thats pretty much what the entire film relies on, style over content and in that its a great success. Despite the less-than-impressive turn from its lead actors, Girl With A Pearl Earring makes a delightful watch anyway, its incredibly majestic and just like a moving painting to behold. Dont expect a standard maid-getting-with-man-of-the-house bodice ripper, this film is all about longing looks and slow tension building. Just make sure you get the book to clear events up for you after the film leaves you a bit bewildered!
Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003)
Certificate: 12 (UK), PG 13 (USA)
Running time: 100 minutes
Director: Peter Webber
Colin Firth Johannes Vermeer
Scarlett Johansson Griet
Tom Wilkinson Van Ruijven
Judy Parfitt Maria Thins
Essie Davis Catharina Vermeer
Cillian Murphy Pieter
It is said that every picture tells a story, and this is essentially what Girl with a Pearl Earring sets out to do; to tell the story behind Johannes Vermeers 1665 masterpiece of the same name. Based on the highly successful novel by Tracy Chevalier, this is a vision of how the enigmatic portrait might have come to be created. This is, of course, a fictionalised account (although based on Chevaliers meticulous historical research of both artist and period), as so much is still unknown about this painting including who the sitter actually was. Taking this mystery as a starting point, Chevalier developed an intriguing and believable account of its creation, and indeed helped with its transfer from novel to film.
Set in Delft in the 1660s, we follow the story through the perspective of an illiterate teenager called Griet (Scarlett Johansson). After her father is badly injured in an industrial accident, Griet finds herself forced to leave home and take a position as a maid in the house of local artist Johannes Vermeer (Colin Firth), work that is both long and arduous, and which Griet clearly hates. Life is made difficult for Griet through the politics of the household, which sees her hated by Vermeers perpetually pregnant wife Catharina (Essie Davis) for her youth and beauty, tormented by Vermeers many children who dont like her, chased after by Vermeers patron Van Ruijven (Tom Wilkinson) who likes her too much, and ruled over by disciplinarian Maria Thins (Judy Parfitt) Vermeers mother in law who keeps a tight rein over the chaotic and financially stretched household. Vermeer himself is aloof and dour (indeed, Firth plays him like a Mr Darcy with long hair) and keeps himself locked away in his studio for the greater part of his time, unaware and uninterested in most of what happens around him.
Despite this distraction from the real world, however, Vermeer sees a quality in Griet that is clearly lacking in the rich and better-educated women who occupy his social strata; she displays an intuitive understanding of light, composition and colour, and an appreciation of his paintings that is completely beyond his shrewish wife. We first see this when Griet asks Catharina if she should wash the windows of the studio, as cleaning them may affect the light in the room. This is a question Catharina treats with contempt, as she fails utterly to realise the impact light has on her husbands art. Gradually, however, Vermeer becomes aware of, inspired by, and later obsessed with, both Griets beauty and this intrinsic awareness of his art, involving her in his work by teaching her to buy and mix the colours he paints with. This obsession only increases the stress in the household, putting the maid in an ever more difficult position, but despite the domestic chaos and sexual tension (between Griet, Vermeer and Griets jealous suitor Pieter) it clearly causes, leads to a collaboration between subject and artist that results in one of the Worlds great artistic masterpieces.
Visually, this film is stunning. The cinematography is luminous and as carefully crafted as any of the paintings featured in the story; every scene was composed, coloured and lit to reflect not only historical accuracy, but also to take on a Vermeer-esque quality that makes it appear as if the whole story was shot within one of his paintings. This is complemented by excellent art direction, costume, set design, and a haunting score by Alexandre Desplat that captures the quality and mood of the piece very accurately. Johansson is made to reflect an uncanny resemblance to the sitter in the actual painting. The attention to detail is almost flawless and indeed, it is quite hard to imagine that this is the first film by director Peter Webber. I say almost because I did notice two tiny flaws: in one scene, Griet is seen polishing four-pronged forks for a forthcoming celebration dinner, an item of cutlery that I dont believe was actually invented until some two hundred years or so after this film was set, while elsewhere you can hear swallows singing in a winter scene. But these are very minor quibbles in what is otherwise a visual feast of a lavishly recreated world.
Indeed, so visual is this film that the director has relied upon very sparse dialogue to carry the plot, and the actors are required to convey much of what is happening through body language and expression alone. While Firth at times seems to struggle with this, Johansson proves to be excellent at it, expressing the fear, innocence and passion of Griet very ably: she is a study in silence. Although she may now be better known for bigger budget productions, I still think that this stands out as her best work, with her quiet, understated performance superbly portraying the passive obedience that maids were expected to observe at this time. However, it is also possible to say that the lack of dialogue makes it difficult to get to know let alone empathise with the characters in this film. With Vermeer in particular it is difficult to work out what he is thinking and feeling, and as a result this leaves his character (and to a lesser extent the others in this film) feeling a little insubstantial and under-developed. In this aspect, style has triumphed quite easily over substance.
Although I have enjoyed this film each time I have viewed it, my main criticism of it would have to be that I feel it was far too heavy-handed with the editing. The initial shooting amounted to a 320 minute film, faithful to Chevaliers book, but of course far too long to stand alone as a film. The editing process was drastic, reducing the film to a mere 100 minutes, little more than one and a half hours (fairly short in movie terms). The reason for this brutal paring down of the film was given as to keep the story tightly plotted. While it arguably does this, when you start to view the major deleted scenes included on the DVD especially if you have read the book, as I have done then you start to appreciate what has been lost from the film. Some of the scenes (especially the one entitled the Vermeers visit) would have added little in length but a lot in terms of clarifying the plot and developing the characters especially important to those viewers unfamiliar with the novel. An extra 10 or 15 minutes or so (amounting to just a couple of these deleted major scenes) would have made the film a lot more substantial and complete by including some of the subtleties of the book, while not making it overly long in my opinion.
Ultimately, this is a film that manages to capture the intimate world of artistic inspiration and creation in a way that few other biopics of artists have managed to do. It was justifiably nominated for Oscars in the categories of Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design in 2004, but remains as a piece that never quite lives up to its full billing. A slightly longer version with more character development would have produced a more substantial and satisfying film, but I still cant help but enjoy it.
Recommended especially to anyone with an interest in art.
The DVD offers a selection of extras; they are nothing especially original, but do offer an extra level of insight into the film if you wish to pursue them. The almost obligatory Making of documentary starts thing off, although at a mere 10 minutes in length you do feel that a bit more could have been offered in this department, although what you get is quite interesting. As I have mentioned previously, there is also a section of deleted scenes these are not all of the material edited out of the 320 minute original version of this film, but rather eight distinct scenes that have been selected for inclusion, which you can watch with or without commentary. These scenes are not the polished finished product (indeed, I find the sound quality very poor in some, even with the volume turned right up) but I did enjoy viewing them to see what the editing process had done to turn the book plot into the film plot; I suspect these scenes will be of most interest to anybody who has read Chevaliers work.
An edition of the American TV series Anatomy of a Scene is also included. To anyone to who hasnt seen this show, it basically focuses on a different film each time, interviewing cast and crew, and then using an in-depth analysis of one pivotal scene within the film to explore themes such as direction, set design and plotting. While this isnt strictly an extra made specifically for the DVD, it is a great inclusion as it brings out more background information and insight than the rather pathetic Making of documentary manages to do. The other extras are the UK theatrical trailer (always a rather pointless addition in my view) and two commentaries for the film one from the director and producer, and one from the writer and screenwriter which are quite illuminating of you want to spend another three hours listening to them both.
*Product Information and Useful Websites*
Information about Vermeer and images of the painting:
Official film website:
I paid £14.99 for my copy shortly after release, which I felt was decent value for money, although you can now get it for as little as £5.95 from DVD.co.uk.
You wouldn't think a movie could look like a Vermeer painting, but Girl with a Pearl Earring is filmed with an amazing range of luminous glows that evoke the Dutch artist's masterworks. Of course, it helps that much of the movie focuses on Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation, Ghost World), whose creamy skin and full lips have a luminosity of their own. Johansson plays Griet, a maid in the household of Johannes Vermeer (Colin Firth), who finds herself in a web of jealousy, artistic inspiration, and social machinations. Though the pace is slow, Girl with a Pearl Earring genuinely conveys some sense of an artist's process, as well as offering many chaste yet sensual moments between Firth and Johansson. Also featuring Essie Davis as Vermeer's bitter wife and Tom Wilkinson (In the Bedroom) as a wealthy patron with eyes for Griet. --Bret Fetzer