Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Directors commentary; Writers
commentary; Making of featurette; Deleted scenes; Anatomy of a
scene; UK theatrical trailer.
HAVING already inspired an acclaimed novel, by Tracy Chevalier,
the mysterious subject of Dutch painter, Vermeers most famous
painting now gives rise to a similarly intriguing, if overly pensive,
Girl With a Pearl Earring marks the film debut of editor-turned-director,
Peter Webber, and is an extremely stylish affair, which marks
a triumph of subtlety over glorification. Yet its strength also
proves to be a weakness.
For while the power of suggestion is to be admired for any fan
of great acting, and serves to heighten the mystery surrounding
Vermeer and his work, it may also deter many viewers, who could
find the laborious pacing something akin to watching paint dry.
The rapidly emerging Scarlett Johansson stars as Griet, a peasant
girl, who is forced to work as a maid in the home of the painter,
Johannes Vermeer (Colin Firth), when her own painter father is
injured in a freak accident.
Her growing fascination for Vermeers life, and art in particular,
subsequently leads to a relationship between the two that threatens
her place in the household, and which eventually leads her to
model for one of his most famous works.
Webbers film, while sumptuously shot and beautifully acted,
is a deeply brooding affair, which is likely to alienate as many
people as it inspires.
The relationship between the two principles is always restrained
and never panders to the mainstream need to spoon-feed audiences,
thereby creating a film which thrives on meaningful glances and
silent admiration, rather than ill-suited dialogue or physical
As such, it is very much an actors piece, with both Firth
and Johansson doing excellent work in their respective roles.
Johansson, in particular, provides an excellent companion piece
to her similarly eye-catching turn in Lost
in Translation, while Firth quietly smoulders as only he knows
how. Both create a believable chemistry, which thrives on the
power of suggestion and mutual appreciation.
Webber, too, deserves credit for keeping faith with his cast
and never allowing things to become too showy, while also displaying
a keen eye for period detail, thanks to some note-worthy camera-work.
He has created a film canvass which is every bit as vivid as the
piece of art itself.
Its just that the movie occasionally feels a little too
mysterious for its own good, failing to provide its tale of forbidden
love with anything remotely passionate, and requiring viewers
to do a little too much work in the process.
Rather like a piece of art itself, the movie is great to look
at, and meticulously constructed, but a little isolated in terms
of emotion. There is no great finale and no real insight into
Vermeer, which may come as a disappointment to anyone seeking
Art fans may warm to it, as will anyone with an appreciation
for period movies, but it seems unlikely to win any new fans to
As an intriguing think-piece, Girl With a Pearl Earring functions
well as a what if scenario to one of the art worlds
great mysteries, but it ultimately lacks the courage of its convictions
to make any bold statements.
And while its successes far outweigh its failures (some of the
support performances fail to reach the standards set by its protagonists),
it may ultimately prove too arty for many. Proceed