Movie Review by Susan Hodgetts
Starring: Colin Firth, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Wilkinson, Judy Parfitt, Cillian Murphy
Director: Peter Webber
One of the highly anticipated films of the year because it stars the lush Colin Firth (oh, all right, and because it’s adapted from the hugely popular novel of the same name by Tracy Chevalier) GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING will not disappoint the many fans of the original novel.
It tells the fictional story behind one of Dutch master Vermeer’s most enigmatic paintings, the Girl with the Pearl Earring.
Griet (Scarlett Johansson) is a young girl in 17 th century Holland forced into servitude after her father suffers an accident. She is taken on at the house of the painter Johannes Vermeer (the aforementioned Firth), provoking the envy of his family and proving a particular irritant to his permanently pregnant wife Catharina. As she begins to demonstrate an understanding of his art, he in turn begins to place his trust in her, with explosive consequences.
The jealousies that begin to surround the pair’s growing relationship are well depicted in both Catherina and Vermeer’s eldest daughter Cordelia. As Griet’s relationship with Vermeer dangerously intensifies, representing the world she cannot enter, so does her courtship with Pieter, a butcher’s son, representing the life she should belong to.
The restraint is mostly beautifully played if at times a little clumsy on the erotic overtones – we get the message without having to endure spasmodic hands. Also the scene where Vermeer sees Griet’s hair tumbling down (indeed he is the only character to see her hair – most of the time she is wearing a white cap) is a truly powerful moment.
Whilst staying faithful to the novel it stands up as a beautiful portrait in its own right. Almost every scene is beautifully layered and each seems to be framed like an individual painting, particularly when the family relax in the drawing room and are all positioned artistically muse-like (sweetie) on chairs or beds.
Firth smoulders like a bonfire whilst Johansson pouts as if she’s been taking lessons from Posh (Victoria Beckham) herself. Both are successful in making their characters as dimensional as they can, conveying meaning in a picture without the ease of lots of dialogue. However the pout is an easy form of expression and it’s true that Posh would be proud with the amount of lip action going on in this movie. And Firth’s wig is never less than interesting, proving that his next role could be as a convincing guitarist in Iron Maiden. Also look out for Tom Wilkinson as a sleazy Van Rijvens, who has a penchant for maids and finds it beyond comprehension that Vermeer is taking so long to “pluck” his.
All in all, a worthy tribute to the book and a pretty picture in its own right.