"girl With a Pearl Earring" (2003) by Peter Webber

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My general impression about the Girl With a Pearl Earring is a mixed one, since the film is a good attempt to recreate the atmosphere of the 17th century Netherlands, but it has a weak point in it.

The directing is an achievement here, since the spectators have a chance to plunge deep enough into the everyday life of the 17th century people, thanks to the detailed (rich with close-ups) representation of such processes as cooking and mixing colours.

S.Johansson’s acting is remarkable here, for her way of playing a modest house maid.

The script, however, takes a lot of points away from the overall rating of the movie. The idea to write about the great artist’s life is a valuable one, but the way the story is delivered spoils the spectator’s impression by the end of the movie; it has some minor twists in it which could be delivered in a more entertaining way (at least the love affair between Griet and Vermeer would work, I believe), but when everything is over, we realize that nothing has really happened there: the girl came to the artist’s house to find a job, but finally was ordered to leave it because the artist painted her instead of his wife, and we cannot even guess how far she is from Vermeer’s house and if they will meet again, and what will happen if the meet someday. This development is an unfinished everyday life drama, it is too simple for such a good idea.

Concerning the topic of 17th century Dutch art, and especially Vermeer’s art, I can point out that it is not only the cinematography that was inspired by Vermeer.

From my observations of Vermeer’s works I found that he focused mostly on interior themes, with relatively simple, not very crowded compositions, which can also be said about the movie. Most of the scenes are staged in interiors, with very precise and strict production design. For example, we can see that the artist’s studio is not crowded with paintings and stands, it has only the most important tools; one could even think that this is a geographer’s cabinet, since most of the items in the room (protractors, rulers) are of scientific nature. This could be a deliberate way of presenting Vermer’s way of working, since some internet sources state that scientific connotations are frequently present in his paintings.

Most of Vermeer’s paintings are also similar in choice of colours: greyish and brownish shades are the most dominant the tonal range; as the Wikipedia article about Vermeer’s style states, “this working method most probably was inspired by Vermeer’s understanding (…) that the surface of every object partakes of the colour of the adjacent objectThis means that no object is ever seen entirely in its natural colour.” The same can be seen from the cinematography, which tries to repeat the style in the use of almost empty grey walls which are in harmony with the colour of the furniture and other items on the walls (see also the yard of Vermeer’s house in the movie).

However, the blue colour, which was extensively used by Vermeer despite the high prize of its components, is stressed in the garments of the painter’s wife (her blue dress) and Griet’s blue hair band.


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