In this wonderfully-acted period piece, Vermeer's famous painting which become the subject of a book is now a film. Griet is a teenager in a poor family, so to get money, she goes to work with the famous Dutch painter, Johannes Vermeer in Delft. Her master then becomes really fond of her, and starts off by giving her some paints, and then painting her.
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Griet is soon the object of obsession of Vermeer's art buyer, Van Ruijven. She is also in love with a young butcher boy called Pieter. This is a wonderfully done film, with brilliant costumes, music, and sets. The cinematography is even more impressive, making it loook like a Vermeer painting. The acting is also marvelous, with an amzing performance by Scarlett Johansson (as Griet) coming just of her great work in Lost in Translation, and Colin Firth as Vermeer. Tom Wilkinson also gives a wonderful performance in his small villianous role as Van Ruijven. The only flaws are the wooden direction by Peter Webber, and that we never find out more about the characters, and what happens to them in the end of the film.
The review of this Movie prepared by Estefan Ellison
Girl with a Pearl Earring is a fictional account of how Jan Vermeer may have conceived and painted his best-known and loved work of the same name. The film has Scarlett Johansson and her uncanny resemblance to the woman in the painting to its benefit, and is beautifully shot so that the film itself in many ways can be compared to a masterful painting. However, with its self indulgent use of colors I felt that the plot was put to the side, and I was left with an unmotivated film to watch.
From the opening shot of Griet (Johansson) chopping onions on, it is obvious that the filmmakers have an eye for art. The onion is a beautiful shade of purplish red, and is surrounded by the dim light of a home that is illuminated only through natural flame. We are in 17th century Holland after all. The knife slices through the onion with a satisfying crispness that delights the ears, and then is spread out on a plate with other vegetables resembling an artist's palette. Yes art is indeed everywhere.
Griet we discover is being sent away by her family to become a housemaid. She must adjust to washing other people's dishes, scrubbing their floors and speaking only when spoken to as she is commanded by Catharina (Essie Davis). The home in which she now resides has its own financial troubles. Catharina keeps popping out children and the only income comes from Vermeer's (Colin Firth) paintings which are bought by his sole patron (Tom Wilkinson).
Vermeer's studio is off limits to everyone, but of course someone has to clean it; this job is bestowed upon Griet. She must clean his study while not moving anything out of its place. Griet shows her understanding of art when she asks her mistress if she should clean the windows. When Catharina responds that yes of course she should Griet retorts by saying that it could change the light. It is through cleaning his studio that Griet develops a relationship with Vermeer that becomes more than what many in the household would like it to be.
Girl with a Pearl Earring displays a side of painting that is not often showed: that of the starving artist. Often painting is romanticized, which it is here, but we also see the worry the other family members have as the money box is repeatedly emptied, and purchases must be made by credit. The painters of such high esteem today often toiled away nameless and unappreciated during their day. It was a lucky person who could paint and not worry about money issues.
Scarlett Johansson in my opinion is of average beauty. In Girl with a Pearl Earring she is continuously dissected by the camera. Her parts definitely equal a sum greater than her whole. In a lengthy close-up of Johansson, Vermeer repeatedly asks Griet to wet her lips. The shot was well executed and timed and made my mouth water. Johansson's role contains little dialogue. She has to act through her expressions which she carries of to an astounding finish. Firth was cast as Vermeer for his accent. Many of the shots of Firth are of him staring fixedly at Griet. Firth got the stony gaze down, but unlike Johansson there is nothing going on behind his eyes. The intensity of Johansson's face leaves Firth looking more like a character actor than an accomplished star. The rest of the cast is well rounded. Essie Davis as Vermeer's wife Catharina is truly a pitiful woman.
Two more scenes need to be mentioned. The first is a shot of Griet walking a path with her boyfriend, Pieter (Cillian Murphy); the shot is absolutely gorgeous, perfectly framed, with amazing sepia tones. The other shot is of Griet grinding substances to make paint. Here she mixes the substance with water to produce a blue that leapt off the screen and transfixed my gaze.
These scenes I have described are beautiful for the camera work alone. As I have said Girl with a Pearl Earring is a beautiful film, containing marvelously filmed shots. Unfortunately the plot which connects these pieces together to form a whole does not drive us. We simply find ourselves at the ending, not sure exactly why or how we got there, left with a few morsels of great acting, and a lot of fantastic imagery.
The review of this Movie prepared by Christopher Bryan