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
Although Vermeer and the painting both are real historic figures, the screenplay is based on Tracy Chevalier's novel and therefore largely fictional or hypothetical. Only 36 Vermeer paintings are known to exist today, and none of the models has ever been positively identified. A poster of the painting in her bedroom inspired Chevalier to write her own version of how it came to exist, based on the framework of Vermeer's known history. Chevalier sold the film rights and opted not to have any involvement in the film or screenplay, although after its release said that she was pleased with the results. See more »
The camera obscura is partially made of plywood, which was invented in the 1930s. See more »
Wide-eyed, hard-working young woman in Holland circa 1665 leaves home for a job as scullery maid to a painter and his family; quickly, she becomes the artist's secret assistant and muse, eventually posing for Vermeer's famous title-named portrait. Stunning art direction, lively pacing and an absorbing narrative all make up for a few key performances which seem too modern, and minor instances where the editing isn't as sharp as one might hope. The maid's many entrances and exits are repetitive, but Scarlett Johansson proves to be a very intuitive actress who excels in a role with very little dialogue. Quite good overall, with a finale that smartly leaves the breathless viewer wondering...asking...wanting more. ***1/2 from ****
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