Directed by: Peter Webber
Countries & Regions: Luxembourg, United Kingdom
Length: 95 mins
Region: Region 2
Released: 31 May 2004
Cat No: P9138DVD
Hard of Hearing Subtitles: English
Screen ratio 1:2.35
Dolby Digital 5.1
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Girl with a Pearl Earring
Peter Webber’s screen adaptation of Tracy Chevalier’s novel looks at the process behind creating one of the most famous portraits and... Read More
Coming off the back of directing ITV’s meagre soap-fest The Stretford Wives (2002), Peter Webber has confounded many critics by turning in a film of depth and immense poise. Based on Tracy Chevalier’s hit novel of obsession and mystery, the story intertwines around the inspiration behind one of the mercurial Flemish artist Johannes Vermeer’s greatest paintings – the eponymous Girl with a Pearl Earring.
The Delft master is played by Colin Firth, surrounded by a brood of children (he had 11 in real life) his pine-faced wife and his fearsome mother-in-law Maria Thins, played with thin-lipped relish by Judy Parfitt. Arriving into the chaotic household as maid and general dogsbody is Griet, taking a menial job to help her ailing parents; enter the bewitching Scarlett Johansson.
The main tale revolves around the relationship that grows between Firth and Johansson and which is neatly balanced between artistic tuition and sexual tension, the household is awash with petty jealousy, money worries and lack of religious faith. The family fawns over local patron Van Ruijven, a rambunctious Tom Wilkinson, trying to persuade him over fat roast dinners to commission another rare work (there are only 35 Vermeer paintings in existence) Of course, Vermeer finally finds the muse for his next work in Griet, he finds her a fine pearl which he eventually gets her to wear and pose with, she cocks her head in a modest and sensual way and turns to peer at Vermeer’s face. The masterpiece is achieved.
The entire film is dressed and lit in the same austere and dark way found in the Flemish renaissance. Certain moments on screen are lingeringly framed as paintings, deep and sombre colours permeate the film, mood and characters. In doing so, the film is lent an air of mystery and dusky wonder and is an understated triumph from start to finish. Colin Firth shows that (amidst the fluff of Love Actually et al), he is a skilful actor and Scarlett Johansson, well, it has all been said elsewhere umpteen times, she is young, gorgeous, gifted and set for A-list superstar status any moment.
The performances of Colin Firth and Johanson are absolutely outstanding, creating an ambience of mystery and uncovered attraction between both characters, in many ways (sexual, artistic, curiosity, beauty) leaving the viewer to choose which one to imagine is the stronger, or the nature of their real interest in each other.
The scenario is fabulous, very much like the paintings of Vermeer and the period he represents, leaving the impression the film is very much like a painting itself, and adequate to the time and place in which it occurs, as if covered by a veil, which is also enhanced by the photography.
The beauty of the two leading actresses, Greet and Vermeer's wife is especially appropriate to the paintings of that period and to that of the Flemish school.
The performance of Colin Firth is, as to be expected, very good, fully transmitting the nature of Vermeer's obsessions, doubts, contradictions, and internal turmoil.
The costumes are also carefully chosen.
I would say this a sensitive, emotional and kind of mysterious film, which allows the viewer to discover, both intellectually and instinctively, what lies underneath. This is a film one must also "feel", and let it into your innerself.
One leaves the movie with the sensation that one's spirit has been filled with beauty! I enjoyed it a great deal, since it also brought me the sensation that I was transported to a different world, totally diferent from our reality of coldness, lack of appreciation of beauty and rushness.