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Girl With a Pearl Earring - Preview & US reaction



Preview by: Jack Foley

ONE of the highlights of this year's London Film Festival was The Girl with a Pearl Earring - first-time director, Peter Webber's big screen adaptation of Tracy Chevalier’s best-selling novel.

The film tells the imagined story behind one of Vermeer’s best loved paintings.

In 17th century Flanders, Griet (played by the rapidly emerging Scarlett Johansson) is forced, by circumstance, to become a servant in the artist, Vermeer's (Colin Firth) household.

Fascinated by his work, she soon displays an aptitude for helping in his studio, and is drawn into his world of colour and light.

But the growing closeness between master and servant cannot go unnoticed, and becomes a threat to the ordered household and to Griet’s own respectability.

The ensuing story makes for an intriguing (if not always gripping) screen adaptation, even though the reproduction of the period and place are entirely convincing, aided in no small part by Eduardo Serra’s cinematography.

Revealing much about the social stratifications of the period, and the relationship between creativity and commerce, this is an essentially intimate tale, in which much is communicated through looks, rather than words.

It is, perhaps, the greatest tribute to Webber's bravery as a director that he opts to let his stars act, rather than overload them with clumsy dialogue.

It is a point which both Firth and Johansson were keen to emphasise at the London press conference for the film, held at the time of the London Film Festival.

Hence, fans of Firth can look forward to another suitably brooding turn from the actor, while the supremely talented Johansson, as Griet, builds on the strong work she did in Lost in Translation, to justify her reputation as one of Hollywood's brightest young things - and all at the tender age of 19!

The film is described by one fan, on the London Film Festival website, as 'breathtaking and brilliant', while Firth comes in for special praise as 'the best actor living today'.

The film is due to open in the UK on January 16, when you can expect extensive coverage of both the press conference, and the movie itself. We shall be delivering our verdict then...

US reaction

Hats off to first-time British director, Anand Tucker, for his new movie, Girl With a Pearl Earring opened to widespread acclaim in America on Friday, December 12, 2003.

Newsday, for instance, led the tributes, stating that ‘visually, the film is breathtaking. And Johansson, while not looking much like the Girl with the Pearl, does achieve a Vermeer- like sublimity, against which the ill winds of 1600s Holland blow’.

While Entertainment Weekly noted that ‘Johansson gives a nearly silent performance, yet the interplay on her face of fear, ignorance, curiosity, and sex is intensely dramatic’.

The Hollywood Reporter lauded it for taking ‘us deep into the intimate realms of artistic inspiration’, and the Los Angeles Times noted that ‘even if Girl With a Pearl Earring is not nearly as remarkable dramatically as it is visually, it is, finally, a film of great beauty, and that is something worth appreciating’.

The film tells of an imagined relationship between the artist, Vermeer, and his servant, played by Scarlett Johansson, which gave rise to the infamous painting.

And it is Johansson, hot off the heels of her no-less attention-grabbing performance in Lost in Translation, who draws a lot of the plaudits.

Village Voice, for instance, noted that ‘as the imaginary historical subject, Johansson holds her frequent close-ups with considerable authority’.

While Apollo Guide noted that ‘the look of the film and its heartbreakingly appealing performance by Scarlett Johansson make it worth seeing’.

And the Blunt Review noted that ‘Girl With a Pearl Earring is simply stunning…Vermeer himself would be proud of the hues and shades Scarlett Johansson brings to this fictional account of his infamous work’.

There were negatives, of course, headed by the New York Times, which described it as ‘an earnest, obvious melodrama with no soul, filled with the longing silences that come after a sigh’.

And from Slant Magazine, which opined that ‘Peter Webber’s gorgeous Girl With a Pearl Earring is a work of lightweight conjecture’.

But the positives outweight the negatives, and the final word goes to Reeling Reviews, which concluded that ‘while Girl with a Pearl Earring is a solid first entry for its director it is, foremost, a film of stunning visual treatment’.

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