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Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003)

PG-13  |   |  Biography, Drama, Romance  |  30 January 2004 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.0/10 from 56,849 users   Metascore: 72/100
Reviews: 288 user | 160 critic | 37 from

A young peasant maid working in the house of painter Johannes Vermeer becomes his talented assistant and the model for one of his most famous works.



(novel), (screenplay)
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Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 17 wins & 38 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Chris McHallem ...
Gabrielle Reidy ...
Anaïs Nepper ...
Melanie Meyfroid ...
Nathan Nepper ...


This film, adapted from a work of fiction by author Tracy Chevalier, tells a story about the events surrounding the creation of the painting "Girl With a Pearl Earring" by 17th century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer. Little is known about the girl in the painting, it is speculated that she was a maid who lived in the house of the painter along with his family and other servants, though there is no historical evidence. This masterful film attempts to recreate the mysterious girl's life. Griet, played by Scarlett Johansson, is a maid in the house of painter Johannes Vermeer, played by British actor Colin Firth. Vermeer's wealthy patron and sole means of support, Van Ruijven, commissions him to paint Griet with the intent that he will have her for himself before it is finished. She must somehow secretly pose for the crucial painting without the knowledge of Vermeer's wife, avoid Van Ruijven's grasp, and protect herself from the cruel gossip of the world of a 17th century servant. Written by thexotherxchris

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


He had a vision no one saw as clearly as she. In a house where everything had its place, where every image had meaning, he gave her the power to see the light. She gave him a look that would last forever..... See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for some sexual content | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

30 January 2004 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Das Mädchen mit dem Perlenohrring  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$89,472 (USA) (12 December 2003)


$11,634,362 (USA) (30 April 2004)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


The movie was partially shot on the Venice set that had been built in Luxembourg for Secret Passage (2004). For this movie Venice was modified to become Delft. See more »


As Vermeer starts to paint Griet he is wearing a shirt that ties at the collar. At the easel it is tied loosely in a double knot baring some of his upper chest. When Griet goes into the storeroom and Vermeer follows and stares at her the strings of the shirt are now tied tightly to his neck. See more »


[first lines]
Griet's Mother: Griet! Leave that.
See more »


Referenced in Mysterious Skin (2004) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

A Wonderful Film Not Just about Vermeer, but Artistic Motivation
17 May 2004 | by (Charleston, SC - author of Losing Summer) – See all my reviews

Johannes Vermeer was a silent man. Being equipped with immense talent, brush and palette, there really was no need for words. Such philosophy is greatly dwelt upon in Peter Webber's adaptation of Tracy Chevalier's novel.

The film is breathtaking alone in the fact that the production team, led by cinematographer Eduardo Serra, production designer Ben Van Os, and art director Christina Shaeffer, manages to capture Vermeer's filling, oil-based colors, and light into every scene.

The story is exemplary as well. We are taken into a brief era in Vermeer's life in 17th century Delft. Much of the film's premise is true: Vermeer was a reticent and brilliant painter who attempted to balance his genius and deep-rooted, innate calling to art and solitude with the often overbearing demands of a bourgeoisie, Venetian society, as well as the malignant pressures posted by a sadistic commissioner, and the pressures of being the head of a massive household (when he died in 1675, he left behind his wife and 11 children).

In 1665, however, he painted a mysterious masterpiece. It's mysterious because much scholarship has since been dedicated to uncovering the identity of the model who posed for it. It has been suggested that the subject is one of his daughters, although this theory is met today with much skepticism. And this is where the film spends most of its fictional focus: that of creating an imaginary story to help speculate on what we know as factual about Vermeer's life. Enter a young, beautiful servant girl, Grit (Scarlett Johansson), who through no fault of her own, finds that her classic beauty attracts Vermeer's sensibilities-as a man and as an artist-to such a degree that he has no choice but to capture her on oil and canvas.

Vermeer (Colin Firth) spends a lot of time in this film standing quietly in the shadows and peeking around corners. There's great symbolism in many of these shots-his body is often half-covered, half-exposed, representing the dichotomy he must have felt in his life-that of being in perpetual conflict with his spiritual, artistic longings and the more human qualities of a man.

Whereas Vermeer' silence is a result of his being reluctant to communicate with the external world, mostly due to artistic self-absorption, Griet similarly is cut off from humanity, but rather out of innocence, naivety, beauty, and the unfortunate side effect of being at the low end of a rather oppressive Delft caste system where she has little voice outside of the disturbance her beauty stimulates in others. Together, the two characters find an unspoken solace, a type of kinetic energy that can only be conveyed through Vermeer's art. Indeed, one of the film's more touching moments comes when the artist reveals his portrait of her and Griet replies, 'You've seen into me.' Another memorable moment, if not altogether breathtaking, comes when Vermeer is instructing Griet in how to hold her face at the proper angle in order to catch the appropriate reflection of light on her mouth, and also when he is instructing her in how to mix his paints and their hands, for a split second, brush together. It is in such moments that Firth brilliantly conveys the tormenting dissonance present in a man not in whose base desires are overshadowing his artistic being, but rather the opposite-as a virtuoso experiencing a rare moment of temporary carnal pleasure.

All philosophy aside, is the film any good? I'd say it's extraordinary, although if you're not one to gravitate toward the biography of an artist, this may not be the film for you. However, I do believe that the human story element her is valuable, entertaining, and worthwhile.

165 of 183 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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Scarlet's mouth made this movie unwatchable for me louisa-eggleton
WHY did they make this movie? mesaydayo
Thank goodness Kate Hudson and Kirsten Dunst pulled out ncmmorris
Why did they set this film in Italy? -; bminney
One of the best erotic non-sexual scenes... marga73
Earring Significance... LoreleiJones
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