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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars visionary art and artistic vision
Intense and mesmerising, Girl with a Pearl Earring is an incredibly subtle film about Vermeer's inspiration for the painting in question. It is a work of speculative fiction (adapted from Tracy Chevalier's novel) since little is actually known about the model at all. As such, it could so easily have gone very wrong, but is succeeds, and indeed shines, through the way it...
Published on 1 July 2004 by Priyan Meewella

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars A visual spectacle
Perfectly restrained performances from a great cast and a superbly realised vision of 17th century Holland the the private world of Vermeer. Not much of a 'story', so the credits may roll whilst you are waiting for a 'plot'.
Published on 29 Dec 2010 by hejira38


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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars visionary art and artistic vision, 1 July 2004
By 
Priyan Meewella "Phoenix" (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Girl With A Pearl Earring [2004] [DVD] (DVD)
Intense and mesmerising, Girl with a Pearl Earring is an incredibly subtle film about Vermeer's inspiration for the painting in question. It is a work of speculative fiction (adapted from Tracy Chevalier's novel) since little is actually known about the model at all. As such, it could so easily have gone very wrong, but is succeeds, and indeed shines, through the way it never becomes overly melodramatic, nor produces lurid revalations about a possible relationship. Instead, in perfect period style, it remains subdued and reflective, while being incredibly intimate at the same time.
In Holland around 1665, Griet [Scarlett Johannson] takes a job as a maid once her blind father is no longer able to work. The household in which she finds employment is that of master painter Johannes Vermeer [Colin Firth]. Though not educated, Griet has an understanding of Vermeer's art and talent which draws the two together, and finally Vermeer decides that Griet is to be the subject of his next painting.
Although Vermeer is clearly attracted to Griet, a beauitful but retiscently modest girl, we are not here to witness a scandalous extra-marital sexual affair. Indeed the two barely even touch throughout the entire piece. But that makes the momentary visual connections infinitely more intimite.
As a film about an artist and painting, I had expected strong use of bold colours but in fact the appearance is very washed out. This certainly fits the period mood of seventeenth century Holland, but more importantly allows Eduardo Serra's cinematography to focus on use of rich light and shadows that perfectly compliments (and to a degree pays homage to) Vermeer's own style. The incredible attention to detail, in both the set design and the way in which they are lit, is one of the focal points of this film. Technical subtleties like focus shifting become incredibly symbolic as in the scene with Griet and Vermeer together mixing paints in silence in his studio.
The storyline is simple and uncluttered, with there are no subplots to draw attention away from the films focus, but equally this means the pace is painstakingly slow. But the reward are the moments of incredible intensity when we see the two characters alone together, beginning with the camera obscura, and climaxing as Vermeer pierces Griet's ear in an obviously symbolic act representing the sexual intimacy that they know will never be consumated.
Johansson's performance as Griet is astounding (further casting a dark light over the Academy who failed to nominate her for an Oscar for either this or her other recent masterful performance in Lost in Translation). She captures Griet's curiosity as she discovers her own intuitive ability to appreciate and understand art, which is what draws Vermeer to her. She becomes his muse, inspiring some paintings, and even improving them. In a flawlessly touching sequence she stares at the canvas of Vermeer's half-completed work, then adjusts a chair in the scene. Later we see Vermeer, moved by her observation, has also removed the chair from his painting.
Colin Firth is enigmatic and convincing as the teacher Griet is drawn to. However, his understated acting does occassionally loses its charisma. Tom Wilkinson has the opposite effect with his leering, charismatically dispicable role of Vermeer's patron, obsessively attracted to Griet himself. Essie Davis as Vermeer's wife brilliantly portrays her frustration as she feels overshadowed by the presence of her mother, the talent of her husband, and soon by Griet too.
Visually moving, the story being told is simple but powerful as the two figures make an intellectual connection, an unfulfilled romance emerges from mutual respect, in an impossible situation. Although beautifully filmed, much of the 95 minutes is not hugely memorable, but instead builds up to the occassional moments that are genuinely breathtaking and have an indescribable intensity as we share in the connection between Griet and Vermeer, and these scenes show just how powerful the medium can be.
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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The exquisitely imagined story behind the famous painting, 30 May 2004
By 
Lawrance M. Bernabo (The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota) - See all my reviews
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There are films about painters ("Lust for Life") and painting ("The Agony and the Ecstasy"), but it is rare to find a film about the art of painting, and that is one of the great strengths of "Girl with a Pearl Earring." The film is based on the novel by Tracy Chevalier, with a screenplay by Olivia Hetreed, that imagines a whole story behind Johannes Vermeer's painting, "Girl with a Pearl Earring" (1665-66) involving the Dutch painter, his family, and the model he used for what is his most famous and most intriguing painting.
Griet (Scarlett Johannson), is a young girl from a Calvinist family who has to seek employment as a maid in the Roman Catholic household of the famous painter. She is given her duties, one of which is to clean the upstairs studio, but only when the master is not busy painting. Even Vermeer's wife, Catharine (Essie Davis) will not enter that place, for reasons we will learn about later. Before she meets the artist (peter Firth), Griet sees his current painting, "Woman with a Pearl Necklace" (1664-65) and we can tell from her eyes that she is looking at something wondrous.
We know that Griet is no fool, because she refuses to accept bad meat from the local butcher, which causes his son, Pieter (Cillian Murphy), to notice her. But in the house she is beneath notice, told not to speak until spoken to first. One day she asks the ladies of the house, Catharina and her mother, Maria Thins (Judy Parfitt), if when she is cleaning the studio if she should do the windows. Her concern is that doing so would change the light. The women look at her without comprehension and Catharina tells her to go ahead and clean the windows. For Maria these are just paintings, things that allow her son-in-law to make money, but for Griet they are something else, and it while cleaning the windows in the corner of the studio that Vermeer used in most of his paintings, that the artists sees her and discovers a new source of inspiration.
The fact that neither his perpetually pregnant wife nor his coin counting mother-in-law has any appreciation for art explains in large part why Vermeer is drawn to Griet. She might not be able to read but he asks her what color are the clouds, she knows the obvious answer is not right for a painter and comes up with the correct one. But then when Vermeer shows her the canvas he is working on, "Young Woman with a Water Pitcher" (1994-65), she knew that the colors were all wrong, and he explains why.
This is a film in which the most erotic moment comes when we finally see Griet's hair, although others might disagree and find mixing paints to be the height of the film's sexuality. But I tended to dismiss such things because I find "Girl with a Pearl Earring" to be about an intimacy that transcends the mere physical realm of sex (the actual painting is of intimate size, 18 by 16 inches). Whatever feelings they might have for each other have to be expressed in other ways, because this is a film that has its sensibilities firmly set in the world of art in the 17th century. Besides, the venality of man is amply represented by Vermeer's patron, the wealthy businessman Van Ruijven (Tom Wilkinson).
Ultimately the film comes down to not just the girl, but to the pearl earring, which belongs to Catharine, but which Vermeer insists must be dangling from Griet's ear in the portrait. Griet knows this is going too far, but we know that she cannot deny him in the end, especially since we have seen the finished painting, which is one of the most beguiling in art history this side of "The Mona Lisa." But also because she is given a push in a somewhat surprising move by one of the characters. The notion that if this is romance it is of a transcendent type that cannot be judged by normal rules. He immortalizes her in a painting and what does she do in return? She lets him pierce her ear and of equal importance, she moves a chair. I so admire films that can work on that lyrical a level.
This 2003 film has been nominated for Oscars for Cinematography Eduardo Serra, Art Direction, set director Ben van Os and set decorator Cecile Heidman, and Costume Design by Dien van Straalen. All clearly take their inspiration from Vermeer's paintings. The lighting throughout the film reflects that of Vermeer's studio, which means it never looks quite as good when we are elsewhere, because the studio is the heart of the film. Tanneke (Joanna Scanlan), the family maid, looks like "The Milkmaid" (1958-60) and Vermeer's wife at one point is costumed exactly like "Woman in Blue Reading a Letter" (1663-64).
Like the painting from which it takes its name and whose enduring image naturally ends the film, "Girl with a Pearl Earring" is Quiet and contemplative. The entire story is speculative because little is known about Vermeer besides his 35 painting, and whether his model for this one was his daughter, a neighbor, or a tradeswoman, no one will ever know. But it is impossible not to look at this painting without wondering who this girl was and what thoughts are going through her mind.
Johannson's performance commands the film, although she is seldom required to speak and rarely asked what she might be thinking. Parfitt as the true power in the Vermeer household offers the other stellar performance, while Firth's dazzling charm from other films is sublimated to his character's artistic temperament. Of course, the greatest compliment that can be paid to first time director Peter Webber is that he has crafted this film with the same care that Vermeer used in painting his own canvases.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greatest 'modern' films ever made!, 2 Jun 2006
By 
FAMOUS NAME (UNITED KINGDOM) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Girl With A Pearl Earring [2004] [DVD] (DVD)
I have just watched this movie for the second time, and I was as bewitched and as enchanted by it as the first time around. This movie is truly a classic! It's not just about an artist and art - but is art itself! The film is both 'moody' and very atmospheric. Every scene is an utter gem! The cast and performances are particularly outstanding. It is absolutely amazing how the actors have managed to project so much with such little dialogue, when compared to your average script. This is such a masterpiece for a modern production, and it will be very hard to find its equal. I could not find fault with this movie; the soundtrack - performances - casting - story - camera work - it's all there, and Judy Parfitt is amazing!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rough Diamond, 17 Aug 2005
By 
Louise Stanley (Reading, Berkshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Girl With A Pearl Earring [2004] [DVD] (DVD)
This is just a fantastic film - the kind which keeps you guessing as to the reactions and intentions of the main characters until the end. Colin Firth increases his reputation as a dark, and, yes, smouldering leading man with his portrayal of Vermeer (he should beware of being typecast!), and his womenfolk are both well-rounded characters with believable actions as the keepers of a household struggling to maintain a lifestyle well beyond its means.
Scarlet Johanssen as Griet maintains the film's suspense, particularly as regards her hair - the scene where her coif comes off - albeit briefly - is one of the best scenes in the entire film, one that increases the tension of unrequited love maintaining its tense distance. The film is all the better for the restraint it shows in not making it a standard bodice ripper (as other films tend to overdo, particularly "La Reine Margot"). Also the hystrionics of Vermeer's wife at the end and the painter's final romantic guesture are all too believable and maintain the credibility and tension.
One hopes that Griet finds her fortune in the end.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like watching a painting!, 3 Dec 2004
This review is from: Girl With A Pearl Earring [2004] [DVD] (DVD)
This is such a wonderful, intense movie. I just ordered the region 2 copy, so I can watch all the extras that were never included on the region 1 version. Still, it is such a beautifully filmed movie that most scenes look like they came out of a painting. Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth do a marvelous job - the chemistry is fantastic!
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A sensual revelation, 22 Sep 2006
By 
Trevor Willsmer (London, England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Girl With A Pearl Earring [2004] [DVD] (DVD)
Girl With a Pearl Earring is a genuine revelation, a quite remarkable film that pares down the narrative to concentrate on the unsaid, creating a remarkably sensual film in every sense of the word. That it looks beautiful should be and is a given, but more importantly it's a real piece of cinema. You really get a sense of the huge importance of art and the strong emotions it can unleash without resorting to speechifying or purple prose, just beautiful filmmaking that reveals a whole world with a subtle intensity: the wife's feeling of betrayal at the painting seems absolutely and horribly believable - it really is a far greater infidelity than if he had slept with her. There's a real sense of revelation to the film, a kind of early Christmas morning feeling. Scarlett Johansson is excellent, as for once is Colin Firth (a fine stage actor but all too often an uncomfortably constipated one on screen), but everything is just right about the movie. Quite superb.

There's a good selection of extras, although none of the deleted scenes include David Morrisey, whose part as a friend of Vermeer was cut entirely out of the film.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite!, 22 Feb 2004
By 
Kona (Emerald City) - See all my reviews
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Tracy Chevalier's best-selling novel has been become a glowingly beautiful film to be enjoyed as a fine work of art.
Scarlett Johansson plays Griet, a young maid who comes to work in the household of the artist Vermeer, where she must contend with a jealous and temperamental mistress, a bratty child, and the brooding and mysterious master himself. Griet must also handle with diplomacy the unwelcome advances of the artist's patron, while unsure of her feelings for the attentive young butcher.
The story is slight and almost secondary to the photography here. Each frame of the movie is filmed with an emphasis on a warm, natural light source that fills each scene with the same radiant glow found in Vermeer's paintings. I found myself holding my breath while watching the film, as one does in the presence of sheer loveliness.
Johannsson is perfect as the young maid and Firth (Vermeer)seethes with intensity. The richly detailed recreation of 17th century Delft is a feast for the eyes. The music enhances the mood of uncertainty and unspoken desire. This is a rare and wonderful film.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars beautiful, 4 Jun 2004
This review is from: Girl With A Pearl Earring [2004] [DVD] (DVD)
This film draws us into the imaginary world of one of the worlds great artists. It gives us a reason behind the enigma that is "The girl with the pearl earing" and it does so beautifuly gracefuly and with obvious love. It is a film of few words , relying upon nuances exquisitely portrayed by the main characters. For anybody easily captivated by magical cinematography and fine acting this film is a must.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful but rather slow (bit like the book really!), 26 April 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: Girl With A Pearl Earring [2004] [DVD] (DVD)
I enjoyed this film and thought that the photography was beautiful although it was rather slow (a bit like the book I have to say). Although I had heard that there was no "spark" between Scarlet Johannsen and Colin Firth I didn't think this was the case, I thought that when they were on screen together we got some of the best scenes of the film. If you enjoyed Remains of the Day and Howard's End however this will probably suit you down to the ground.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Girl with a Pear Earring, 6 Nov 2007
By 
This review is from: Girl With A Pearl Earring [2004] [DVD] (DVD)
I watched this film just recently, having been enthralled by Tracey Chevalier's book first of all. It was brilliantly produced with real sensitivity - and every scene was evocative of the beautiful Vermeer paintings. All the characters leapt straight out of the great masterpieces onto the screen - all the costumes and colours carefully reproduced. I loved the story so much, I want to go and visit Delft myself to soak up the atmosphere!
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Girl With A Pearl Earring [2004] [DVD]
Girl With A Pearl Earring [2004] [DVD] by Peter Webber (DVD - 2004)
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