will paint you as I first saw you. Not a Maid. You."
1665 Delft in Holland, Griet (Johansson) starts work as a
maid in the house of renowned local artist Johannes Vermeer (Firth). Her
duties include the cleaning and tidying of her master's studio and over
the time she becomes fascinated with his work. Without a new commission,
Vermeer becomes inspired by Griet's interest in the art and she becomes
his muse. His wife and children become increasing jealous of the attention
he is giving the maid but when local patron Van Ruijun (Wilkinson) asks
for a portrait of Griet, Vermeer and his mother-in-law Maria Thins (Parfitt)
decide to keep the painting a secret.
Inspiration and fascination are explored in a movie about
art that looks good enough to be a painting.
Based on Tracy Chevalier's acclaimed novel, the movie delves
into the mystery of one of the greatest ever portraits, Vermeer's 'Girl
with a Pearl Earring'. Here we find out about the fictional life of Griet,
the subject of the painting as created by Chevalier from historical clues
about Vermeer's life and studies of his paintings. Her captivating life
of service and fascination with her master's paintings, might be pure speculation
but it is the attention to detail of both the movie and the novel that give
these events the possibility of truth.
The performances are first rate. It is easy to forget that
there is more to Colin Firth than his romantic comedy roles. He is also
a fine dramatic actor and provides an understated, slightly removed performance
for a character consumed by his art at the expense of his family. While
his wife, children and mother-in-law are motivated by the money his painting
generate, only Griet takes an interest in his art and you can see why Vermeer
is drawn to her. Firth rises to this challenge by creating two sides to
the complex character, a distant, remote side when he is with his family
or in a social gathering and a tender, passionate side when he shares his
love of art with Griet.
Fine support comes from the always-reliable Tom Wilkinson,
as the deviant patron Van Ruijun who has a predilection for young servant
girls. Cillian Murphy continues to make a name for himself, with another
fine performance. Judy Parfitt as the commanding woman of the house and
mother-in-law, Maria Thins would strike fear into any servant or man and
Essie Davis excels as the jealous wife, consumed by self-doubt and greed.
This is Scarlet Johansson's movie however. The young actress
is becoming a real star and someone to watch. She is truly captivating in
the role of Griet and she looks astonishingly like the inspiration for the
famous portrait. It is the pure honesty of her performance that brings the
character to life as the actress captures her innocence and passion for
art with the skill of a seasoned professional. Superstardom and awards aplenty
await this extremely talented performer.
The visuals on this movie are a pure colour pallet for the
eye. Fantastic set design, costumes and lighting create a canvas on the
screen as the colours are illuminated as if they were the original oils
used to produce Vermeer's masterpieces. Director Peter Webber and cinematographer
Eduardo Serra have captured the period and the look exquisitely to produce
one of the most visually splendid films for many a year. It is a pure visual
What lets the film down is some unnecessary details and subplots.
While the interactions between Vermeer and Griet are fascinating, as they
grow as people in each other's presence, there is not enough here to hold
the attention. The decision by the writer and filmmakers for the two not
to consummate their attraction and bond is an excellent one, adding more
to the drama and romance of the piece but many of the other storylines seem
totally unnecessary. For example Vermeer's son's dislike of Griet, the whole
Pieter storyline and the religious overtones of Griet's character are all
voiced but never really followed up on or concluded. If these points had
been historically accurate you could have accepted them but as most of the
story is based on speculation, it makes it harder to accept as it just feels
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' is a fine example of period filmmaking.
This is a visually stunning movie that has a captivating story at it's heart
but suffers from been smothered by the surrounding, unnecessary filler.
While this doesn't take too much away from the main story, it does hinder
it slightly as you are taken intermittingly away from the real tale it is
trying to tell. This is a shame as the excellent visuals and fine performances
deserve a lot more.
Presented in 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen with a Dolby Digital
5.1 surround soundtrack, this is an excellent transfer. The sharpness of
the picture quality allows the film to convey its artistic feel and the
almost oil painting like pallet of the entire movie. The surround sound
track emphasises dialogue very well but comes alive when Alexandre Desplat's
wonderful score consumes the speakers.
Director Peter Webber and Producer Andy Patterson chat about bringing Tracy
Chevalier's novel to the silver screen. They talk about using different
film stocks to create a look that would mimic actual paintings from the
time. They reveal how they met Scarlett Johansson for the first time and
how she instantly stood out from the one hundred and fifty girls who auditioned
for the part. They also discuss, in length about how cold the shoot was
and how the fictional elements of the book and the proceeding screenplay
where blended with actual historical facts, such as the removal of the chair
from Vermeer's painting.
Novelist Tracy Chevalier and screenwriter Olivia Hetreed discuss the differences
between the novel and the final draft of the screenplay. They talk at length
about the differentiation between the written word and the visual medium
and how something can work extremely well in a book and be a complete failure
on the silver screen. The two discuss the casting and how Olivia fell in
love with Cillian Murphy. The also reveal that the ending of the book was
completely different to the movie, as it misses out a section that takes
place twelve years after the completion of the painting.
Girl with a Pearl Earring: The Art of Filmmaking (13.40
Director Peter Webber, producer Andy Patterson, novelist Tracy Chevalier,
screenwriter Olivia Hetreed and stars Colin Firth, Scarlett Johansson, Cillian
Murphy and Joanna Scanlan talk about bring 17th century Holland and the
world of Johannes Vermeer to life. They discuss the visual style of the
movie and the importance of certain scenes. Colin Firth reveals that he
became obsessed with the painter and his paint making methods but the fact
that he cannot paint to save his life hindered any chance of becoming an
Deleted Scenes (14.59 mins)
Entitled "The Vermeer's visit", "I didn't ask for blue", "So Soon", "Plague
1", "Plague 2", "Plague 3", "As I first saw you" and "The cabinet" these
eight deleted scenes are accompanied by optional commentary by director
Anatomy of a Scene (23.52 mins)
A Sundance Channel special that looks at the construction of the 17th Century
Banquet scene. With interviews with director Peter Webber, producer Andy
Patterson, novelist Tracy Chevalier, screenwriter Olivia Hetreed, editor
Kate Evan, art director Christina Schaffer, cinematographer Eduardo Serra,
composer Alexandre Desplat and star Scarlett Johansson, the featurette takes
you through design, location, production, lighting, editing and music of
the pivotal scene.
UK Theatrical Trailer (1.39 mins)
Your chance to watch the trailer released to cinemas in the UK.
A visually superb movie receives an extremely good DVD treatment
from Pathé. The two commentary tracks are very informative and a pleasure
to listen to when the people involved are so passionate about the project.
The inclusion of a good making of featurette and the excellent Sundance
Anatomy of a Scene only add to the value. The deleted scenes are all better
for the inclusion of an optional commentary track also. These elements combine
to make this a extremely well packaged DVD that is a must buy for fans of
the movie and a fantastic rent for everyone else.
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