This film, adapted from a work of fiction by author Tracy Chevalier, tells a story about the events surrounding the creation of the painting "Girl With a Pearl Earring" by 17th century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer. Little is known about the girl in the painting, it is speculated that she was a maid who lived in the house of the painter along with his family and other servants, though there is no historical evidence. This masterful film attempts to recreate the mysterious girl's life. Griet, played by Scarlett Johansson, is a maid in the house of painter Johannes Vermeer, played by British actor Colin Firth. Vermeer's wealthy patron and sole means of support, Van Ruijven, commissions him to paint Griet with the intent that he will have her for himself before it is finished. She must somehow secretly pose for the crucial painting without the knowledge of Vermeer's wife, avoid Van Ruijven's grasp, and protect herself from the cruel gossip of the world of a 17th century servant.Written by
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..... See more »
The film was originally slated to star Kate Hudson and Ralph Fiennes and be directed by Mike Newell. Hudson pulled out during pre-production (allegedly because she refused to wear a wimple for the role), which resulted in funding being pulled. By the time new funding was secured, Newell had had to move on to another project. After a director search, Peter Webber was tapped for the job and held auditions for a new female lead. He settled on Kirsten Dunst, who then dropped the project in the wake of Spider-Man (2002)'s success. At this point, Fiennes had been waiting so long that he too had to move on to other scheduled projects. Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth were then cast. See more »
When Griet and Vermeer look at the clouds standing in front of the window, it's winter (according to the scenes before and after this one). Nevertheless, you can hear the sounds of swallows squeaking. These birds are only in The Netherlands in summer. See more »
I recently read the book Girl with a Pearl Earring and I was very impressed by the way Tracy Chevalier gave life and credibility to her portrait of Griet and the Dutch painter Vermeer.
Thus, it was with high expectations that I bought the film and watched it. I was very disappointed by the film and have given some thought to the reason why it simply does not work.
Firstly, it seems to me that the film is too dependent on the book. It seems to me that viewers who have not read the book will wonder what it is all about. Since the book has so many "in-betweens", some sort of explanation about the characters and the plot seems essential. It seems to me that the director relied too much on the facial expressions of the leading actors to convey not only emotions but also crucial events in the plot.
This leads me to the second point of the criticism. I think the main problem with the film is exactly the characterisation. Colin Firth and Scarlett Johanson do not strike me as credible characters they do not literally "jump from the screen" as they did indeed jump from the page.
Firths body language is moody and closed and it comes across as if he is sulking all the way through the movie rather than enveloped and passionate about his work. Scarlett Johansen also fails to convey the intelligence and dormant potential of the maid Griet. It is not enough to just open and close your mouth 1000 times when we are given no other clues to what ís going on.
I do not think however that this is the fault of the actors - it must mean that something is missing in the direction and the script - there seems to be too little material for the actors in which to invest and bring out the characters. Too much material is only suggested and still relies upon the viewer having read the book and being able to fill in the blanks and fill in the emotions in those vacant expressions of Scarlett and Colin.
Some of the plot changes also puzzled me. Why does Vermeer pierce both her ears when she did one of them herself in the book. I thought this was a very powerful way of showing Vermeers dedication as well as his passion for the art which is uncomprising as well as a little cruel.
An adaptation has to be able to stand alone and this film certainly does not achieve this.
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