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Girl With A Pearl Earring

6.91 h 39 min2004X-Ray12
To support her family, 17 year old Griet becomes a maid in the house of Johannes Vermeer and soon attracts the master painter's attention. Although worlds apart in social standing, Vermeer recognises her intuitive understanding of his work and slowly draws her into his mysterious world of art and passion. The result will be one of the greatest paintings ever created...but at what cost?
Peter Webber
Scarlett JohanssonColin FirthTom Wilkinson
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Pathé Productions Limited
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4.5 out of 5 stars

1081 global ratings

  1. 72% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 15% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 7% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 4% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 2% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United Kingdom

The Ginger ButterflyReviewed in the United Kingdom on 16 January 2022
5.0 out of 5 stars
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Some slow films can be so painstakingly, dreadfully dull they are an expensive reminder of watching paint dry; thankfully 'Girl with a Pearl Earring' is utterly engaging.

An early in her career Scarlett Johansson is captivating as Griet, her performance simple, understated, and affecting.

The responsibly hired cast understand that a then (early noughties) present day flow and facilitation would be extremely out of place and lack credible authenticity for depicting 17th century The Netherlands. I truly wish many modern day film makers, including writers, as actors and actresses would keep this at the forefront of their minds when working on a project set in yestercentury.

Pearly whites aside, hair, make-up, wardrobe, and set design all take this film from the fictitiouness of the dvd to the reality of the daily grind and the emotions there in.

Olivia Hetreed's adaption of Tracy Chevalier's book is the expertly written foundation necessary for the cast and crew to truly shine.

Many period dramas fail on the silver screen as they aren't afforded the luxury of time that television is blessed with - thus resulting in many a film feeling rushed and lacking; thankfully 'Girl with a Pearl Earring', although only showing a sliver of life, comes across as being complete.
coraReviewed in the United Kingdom on 18 July 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
Visually Beautiful Period Piece in the Style of a Vermeer Painting
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The film is visually absolutely stunning. It tells the story of the girl Griet, the famous girl with the pearl earring painted by Vermeer, as imagined by Tracy Chevalier in her novel on which it is based. Sets and costumes are beautiful, at times mirroring various paintings by Vermeer, and minute attention has been paid to detail, making it true to the period it's set in. There isn't much action, not even an awful lot of dialogue, but the acting is superb all round and you can feel the forbidden attraction between the Puritan maid and the painter without the need for many words.

Scarlett Johansson is superbly cast as Griet, her natural resemblance to the girl in the famous painting is uncanny and her performance is absolutely wonderful. Colin Firth is excellent as always as Vermeer. The supporting cast is equally good, with Essie Davis as the painter's jealous wife and Tom Wilkinson as his rather disagreeable rich patron who is quite obsessed with Griet himself. Cillian Murphy gets to kiss Johansson as the young butcher boy who is smitten with the girl, and Judy Parfitt delivers a befittingly intimidating performance as the painter's mother in law. Joanna Scanlan is absolutely delicious as the senior servant and cook in the Vermeer household.

The film is a pure joy to watch. The DVD has optional English subtitles and various extra features including a making of featurette with snippets from interviews with Scarlett Johansson, Colin Firth and Cillian Murphy, a goodly selection of deleted scenes, and two commentary tracks, one with the film makers (director and producer), the other with the writers of the source novel and screenplay.
7 people found this helpful
J. L. SievertReviewed in the United Kingdom on 21 May 2016
5.0 out of 5 stars
Look of longing
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Not to make a pun of it, but this is a painterly film. The film-maker Peter Webber and his cinematographer Eduardo Serra have coloured it as if it were a Vermeer canvas, the light soft and suffuse, the colours muted by grey northern skies. The film is quiet and serene, mirroring the simple action and still-life interiors of Vermeer’s paintings: a milkmaid pouring milk, women at a harpsichord, a geographer and his globe.

Little is actually known about Johannes Vermeer (1632-75). He is thought to have painted slowly, sparingly. His style is meticulous, unrushed. Few canvases were produced (it is thought) and he was not prominent in art circles in his lifetime. His paintings fell into neglect for two centuries after his death, revived by the French, not the Dutch, in particular the influential critic Théophile Thoré-Bürger and the novelist Marcel Proust, who thought Vermeer’s “View of Delft” among the most beautiful landscapes ever painted. From then on (since the late 19th century) he has been considered a Master, his paintings (all 34 of them in existence) valued in the millions.

Tracy Chevalier wrote a fine novel (same title) on which the film is based. Naturally, since next to nothing is known about Vermeer apart from basic facts recorded in public and legal documents, the novelist had to use her imagination to bring the story to life. The serving girl Griet in the Vermeer household (played beautifully by Scarlett Johannson) is Tracy’s inspired creation. She is the girl who will sit for Vermeer wearing both the famous pearl and longing smile, the lips slightly wet with subtle dashes of glazed white. Her sad eyes also tell a tale of longing, or so we might suppose.

What was she, whoever she was, to Vermeer? Naturally, we cannot know. Instead, the painting has to tell us things we may want it to say to us. Tracy and Peter Webber may have got it right. It could be that Vermeer longed for her as much as she longs for him, or for something in him that inspires her look. This Mona Lisa of the North, as she has been called, did not come out of nothing. She looks for all the world as if she wants to be kissed.

Vermeer (played superbly by a long-haired, stoic Colin Firth) was a Protestant who married into a Catholic minority family in Delft. Why did he do it? Some art historians say it had to do with social climbing. The family of his wife Catharina were well off, or better off than Vermeer’s, his a family which seems to have been somewhat disreputable. Rumours of debt and scandal hounded the family. An uncle, for instance, spent time in prison. Renouncing his Protestant faith in predominantly Protestant Holland would not have been easy for Vermeer, especially since his conversion was to Catholicism, the religion of hated Spain, a country Holland had been at war with during the 16th and 17th centuries.

Did he love his wife? Well, he loved her enough to produce 15 children, if love has anything to do with such a process. But if he was not well off, why the large family? Many speculative reasons of course: Catholic family; poor contraception, if any; high infant mortality; custom of the day. In the film we see his brood but never get to know any of them. We aren’t even given their names. They figure in none of his paintings, so in a way they are faceless, not just nameless, and lost to posterity. They may have been the children produced for his wife, family, church, tradition and duty, more than for his private joy.

The subjects he mainly chose were people going about their business: the music teacher, the book and letter readers, the serving girls and cooks in their kitchens. Political turmoil in the world beyond is not present in his interiors. It’s as if real peace and freedom exist here behind closed doors, in privacies that cannot be interrogated. His subjects are shown in repose, not happy or sad, just serene and peaceful, at home in their own skins and surroundings.

He is like the French painter Chardin (1699-1779) in this regard. Both seem to say this is where profundity lies — here in the heart of simplicity.

The film shows this simplicity. The artist sketches, mixes paints, sits with his easel and canvases, eats at the family dinner table, sleeps in his own bed in the studio more often than in the one shared with his wife. He’s around people but seems solitary, absorbed by his own thoughts and visions. His family treat him as eccentric, as indeed he is, as indeed any artist perhaps has to be to carry on. Beauty enchants him: the play of light, the texture of clouds, colours and the complexity of feeling their blending brings. His eye is keen. He observes everything well. He also uses optics to enhance what he sees, science a part of his art.

Griet comes to the Vermeer home to do ordinary household tasks: sweeping up, dusting, washing clothes and crockery. She has no proper education, just does what working-class girls did in those days — drudgery, the chores others would not do. But as time passes she begins to catch Vermeer’s eye. An aesthetic eye, it must be said, not a lecherous one. He sees beauty in her, but it’s a beauty radiant with character and intelligence, not the standard sort that serving wenches are supposed to bring and have.

He is intrigued. He likes how she moves when she dusts the studio loft. There’s something natural in the way she catches the light. He asks her about art. What does she think? She’s not used to saying what she might think about it. She may not even have thought deeply about her own thoughts. But Vermeer wants to know anyway. He wonders if her mind contains some of the beauty her form displays.

It does. His intuition about her was right. He asks her to buy paints for him. She feels honoured to do so. Later, as time passes, he wishes her to help him mix paints, whereupon he teaches her his theories about colouration, light and optics. Little by little, he takes her into his private world of beauty — a sanctuary which, as far as we know in the film, no one else is allowed to enter.

The main crisis in the story hinges on a key painting in Vermeer’s oeuvre. His patron Mr. Van Ruijven, whose taste in art is pedestrian, does not meddle with Vermeer’s choices for subjects. The patron seems content with whatever Vermeer paints. Thus Vermeer opts to do something bold and different. He usually paints people in workaday situations. He also paints landscapes. Portraiture is not his usual metier. Yet Griet has captivated him. Something inexpressible in her is what he longs to express.

The pearl belongs to his wife. He steals it from her vanity case. The portrait of Griet is incomplete without it. The beautiful jewel is needed to produce counterpoint: simple girl, elegant look. Her hair too is not right. Something must be done with it. In the end he decides to cover her long curls with a head scarf, which lends even more modesty to the face. The scarf also adds a touch of the exotic to her, as it almost resembles a turban — Turkish, Moroccan or Middle Eastern.

Catharina is hysterical when she discovers the purpose to which her missing earring has been put. Her tears are tears of rage, frustration, jealousy. Her husband’s talent has not raised the fortunes of the family. He has frittered it away on meaningless, unimportant subjects. None of his paintings has historical weight, allegorical significance. Now this, the final insult — a serving girl hopped up as cover girl with a pearl stolen from her own jewel case by her disreputable, philandering husband. Her tantrum scene in the film is almost unbearable to watch. We watch a woman losing her mind. She even tries to destroy the painting. Imagine that!

It’s all a clever fiction, but in the end you don’t notice it. For two hours you develop a Vermeer eye for splendid detail: the folds of a gown, the way sunlight streams through the kitchen window onto a bowl of apples or peaches, the look of colours diluted in glass jars filled with water or turpentine, the look in the painter’s eye as he sizes up and hunts down beauty, and Griet herself in her garments of modest simplicity which match the serene beauty of her pure and honest face.

It’s a pleasure to be surrounded by this sensuality, to be let into Vermeer’s world for these momentary glimpses of it. Tracy Chevalier is to be applauded for her imagination, and by turns Peter Webber and Eduardo Serra for their sensitive appreciation of Vermeer’s love of beauty.
5 people found this helpful
AntresorReviewed in the United Kingdom on 30 September 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
Sensitive informative and visually ravishing
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It is difficult to imagine more effective casting and the recreation of scenes from 17th century life are not sparing of the tougher aspects while celebrating the vibrance of the period. While the story of Griet and Vermeer springs from the creation of Mm Chevalier the emphasis on "decent" behaviour in a somewhat indecent era and the bond of artistic appreciation between them is both moving and instructive.
Denise Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 09 September 2020
1.0 out of 5 stars
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I'm going to have to stop taking notice of these five star reviews,9 times out of 10 they are totally misleading.What baffles me is why they bother to bring together brilliant actors, costumes and scenary for a pathetic story.Now in the bin.
One person found this helpful
Rob CliffordReviewed in the United Kingdom on 12 March 2022
4.0 out of 5 stars
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The novel would have been easy to film without loosing any of the plot elements, which weave together well I the book. I can only imagine that the producers wanted to 'big up' the Colin Firth character, at the expense of other household members. Other than that, it is well made, enjoyable, and a great performance from Ms Johansson.
Nicholas WaltonReviewed in the United Kingdom on 18 January 2021
2.0 out of 5 stars
A long film for a thin plot
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I watched the entire film, which feels like an achievement in itself. It's slow and thin. My interest is that I live in Delft itself, just 100m from where Vermeer was born. The film gave some interesting visual insights into life back in the Golden Age and the work of an artist. Beyond that? Not much.
Soo BrooReviewed in the United Kingdom on 14 October 2009
4.0 out of 5 stars
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What a beautiful, gentle and original little film this is. Another wet Sunday afternoon film that I actually did watch on a wet Sunday.

It seems such a simple idea to take a beautiful painting and imagine the story behind it, and this was done exquisitely. Every scene could have been a Vermeer painting; the lighting, the poses, the costumes, the muted pallette with splashes of bright yellow and blue were all visually stunning. There wasn't much dialgoue; thoughts and feelings conveyed with looks, gestures and actions which I felt had much more impact.

Colin Firth was solid as Vermeer; constrained by the need to make money from his work to support his huge family, although in reality I think he produced very few paintings in his whole life. Scarlett Johansson was excellent as the terribly young, nervous, naive maid and subject of the work. The scene where she turns her head after she puts the earring on and we see, for the first time, the image of the painting was breathtaking.

A really wonderful film, totally absorbing and visually exquisite. Showing the real painting at the end - quite emotional and utterly beautiful.
2 people found this helpful
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