Released: March 11 2004
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Colin Firth, Tom Wilkinson, Judy Parfitt, Cillian Murphy, Essie Davis, Joanna Scanlan, Alakina Mann, David Morrissey, Anna Popplewell
Director: Peter Webber
Running Time: 100 Minutes
***Nominated for 10 BAFTA Awards, 2004***
including Best Actress - Scarlett Johansson
***Nominated for 3 Golden Globe Awards, 2004***
including Best Actress (Drama) Scarlett Johansson
***Nominated for 3 Academy Awards, 2004***
including Best Cinematography
Delft, Holland 1665. After her father, a tile painter, is blinded in a kiln explosion, seventeen-year-old Griet (Scarlett Johansson) must work to support her family. She becomes a maid in the house of Johannes Vermeer (Colin Firth) and gradually attracts the master painter's attraction. Though worlds apart in upbringing, education and social standing, Vermeer recognises Griet's intuitive understanding of colour and light and slowly draws her into the mysterious world of his paintings.
'Girl With A Pearl Earring' is a very slow movie, but that is not to say it is in any way boring. Bear with it and you will be rewarded with a beautiful account of the relationship between the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer and his housemaid Griet. The film is based on the best-selling novel by Tracy Chevalier and is her account of what is one possible explanation for the famous painting by Vermeer.
Griet is forced to work at Vermeer's house after her father's industrial accident, albeit reluctantly. She is given various household tasks including the job of cleaning Vermeer's attic where he paints, providing she doesn't touch anything. She uses the time to slowly study his workspace, the light, the paints, the paintings, not knowing that Vermeer is also studying her from a distance, almost voyeuristically. He notices that she has an inner knowledge of an artist and slowly begins to form a relationship with her. It is this relationship that is the main thrust, building ever so slowly, always hesitantly. There is always a question of whether the relationship will be consummated.
Meanwhile, Vermeer's mother-in-law, who lives in the same house, encourages his and Griet's relationship as she can see that Griet inspires him to paint, something his seemingly forever-pregnant wife cannot do. The sales of Vermeer's paintings are the sole source of income for the family, so they are paramount in being produced, which is where the lascivious and wealthy Master van Ruijven (a desperate Tom Wilkinson) comes along. Master van Ruijven has designs on Griet, but they are not reciprocated. Griet meanwhile has a love interest in the local butcher boy, where she thinks her heart should lie, but is torn by her feelings for Vermeer.
'Girl With A Pearl Earring' is one of those movies that is exquisite and oozing a luscious romantic atmosphere. Scarlett Johannson is simply perfect as Griet and she has been nominated for many awards for the role. She is able to suggest a character of great depth. Colin Firth is as gorgeous as he always is, with that famous aloofness that he seems to project. The role of Vermeer is one of few words, it is more a mood and emotion that is conveyed so subtly. Overall, this is a lovely film, with an equally lovely cast, soundtrack and style, which is well worth catching.
Rating : B+
- Christina Bruce