Worth A Look: 45.16%
Just Average: 14.52%
Pretty Crappy: 6.45%
3 reviews, 44 user ratings
|Girl with a Pearl Earring
Peter Webber's Girl With A Pearl Earring is absolutely gorgeous to look at. It will make art lovers and fans of the book very happy. If you aren't one of these people, however, you might want to stay home. You may find this film a tad slow and confusing. On the other hand, if you appreciate an intense story of forbidden love...come on down!Yeah, ok, I was an art history major. Donít rub it in. But because of my dubious beginnings, I was lucky enough to see this painting, Girl With A Pearl Earring, in person at the Met many years ago. This makes me extra-special qualified to wax poetic over this movie. Iíve also read the book. So there. You canít touch this.
"A beautifully filmed, albeit slow, faithful adaptation of the book."
Based on Tracy Chevalierís best-selling novel, Girl is a fictional attempt to reveal the mystery behind a real painting that is sometimes called ďthe Dutch Mona Lisa.Ē Yes, itís the story of the creation of a painting in 17th century Holland. But before you dismiss this as art house schlock, let me try and explain why so many people find this fascinating. The painting by Johannes Vermeer has been an enigma for hundreds of years because despite the initial appearance of being a standard run-of-the-mill portrait, closer inspection begs many questions.
The strangeness of her costume, the lack of identifying features Ė and the small fact that many critics see something erotic in her expression Ė inspired writer Chevalier to create a fictional story to explain the paintingís existence. In reality, the girl has never been identified. Chevalierís story is a good one that successfully fleshes out a character and a plotline that truly might have been.
Young, innocent Griet (Scarlett Johannssen) must go to work as a maid because her family has fallen on hard times. She is hired at the bustling house of Master Vermeer (Colin Firth), where her attention to detail and care in moving objects allows her exclusive entry to the masterís painting studio. Despite domestic conflicts with the children, mistress of the house, and fellow servants, Griet garners Vermeerís favor because of her interest in and respect for his craft. They soon form a bond that close-minded family and friends can only imagine as sexual.
Inevitably, the jealousy of others brings on a tension that will tear them apart. In this fictional speculation, the creation of the painting is both the unavoidable expression of their affection and the breaking point that causes everything to fall apart.
The two main characters say very little throughout, and in fact, my only complaint is that the dialog is a bit sparse in general. The book seemed to have more activity and communication between characters, which is something I missed a little in this film. I can only speculate that the makers were trying to let the visual and meditative qualities dominate, but I fear this may alienate or confuse viewers who have not read the book and donít have the advantage of much background information. They may be left wondering what exactly was going on with the evil, wealthy patron, or why Griet wouldnít let anyone see her hair, for example.
Critics ignorant of Vermeer or the book will undoubtedly kvetch about the casting, the slow pace, and even the lack of focus on Vermeerís character over Grietís. Keep in mind, folks: this is a film adaptation of a book Ė not the definitive look at Vermeerís career.
But really, only art lovers and those who have read the book will likely turn out for this film because the real star is not the brooding Colin or the virginal Scarlett; itís the ART DIRECTION. The makers of this film did an unbelievable job recreating Vermeerís studio and world. No detail was overlooked in the reproduction of his furniture, walls, tapestries, objects of all kinds, costumes, and most of allÖCOLOR and LIGHT.
Many scenes made me catch my breath and a few times, I swear my jaw dropped a little -- only because of the art direction. I donít know what I expected from this movie, but I was completely and pleasantly surprised at the visual beauty and the faithfulness to the mood and atmosphere of Vermeerís work. If you have ever looked twice at a Vermeer, you will be astounded by what they did here.
The production values were such that I didnít care much about how the actors were faring. Some say Scarlett is miscast, but I think she does just fine. Without much dialog to work with, she conveys her emotions and internal conflicts well. Though she is associated with a certain modernity (sheís the ďItĒ girl, right?) that makes it a stretch to accept her in a period piece, I think she pulls it off. By the way, I read a rumor that Kate Hudson was once considered for this role. MY GOD! What a tragedy that would have been!!
Colin as Vermeer is a perpetually troubled man with a strange relationship to his wife. Even stranger is his interaction with his supposed friend and patron, Van Ruijven, with whom he hardly exchanges a word. Overall I canít complain. Heís handsome, quiet, and tortured. Who could ask for more?
As for the other main character (the famous pearl earring, that is) -- well, in reality it appears in several of Vermeerís works and was probably a phony prop he kept in his studio. This story assumes it was a genuine pearl and elevates its status to a pivotal plot device. Without it, we would have little tangible evidence of the love between artist and model.
You may be unimpressed with the painting and therefore unenthusiastic about the film. I can only argue that paintings must be seen in person to be truly appreciated and there isnít much we can do about that. Youíll have to take my word for it: itís beautiful and mysterious and all that jazz. But we will never know the truth about its creation.Was it just a portrait? Was it a love affair? And who can tell the difference? If you care enough to sit through a beautifully shot but kinda quiet, kinda slow movie, go see this one.
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originally posted: 12/12/03 17:14:10
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