Review: Girl with a Pearl Earring
Upon first glance, Girl With a Pearl Earring looks like another ambitious (and boring) art movie. Aside from phenomenal acting and absolutely glorious cinematic, the film stands on an underlying current of sexuality that jumps out of every shot and every movement throughout it's 90-minute run.
The camera seems attached to the details of fine textures and color...much like a painting, viewed close up. Which is exactly what the film is about, coincidentally.
The story surrounds the life of a young, Dutch protestant, Grete (Scarlett Johanssen), who moves in with a prominent Catholic family as a maid, having no idea what she is about to get herself into. The master of the house, Johannes Vermeer (Colin Firth), is a (typically) intense painter whose work is, at this point, no more than eye candy for rich patrons.
His wife is an absolute terror of demanding moneygrubbing and intense jealousy. She knows her husband has an eye for beauty and a passion for art, she uses his artwork as no more than a source of income. She invites the patrons over, where they tell Vermeer exactly what to paint for them.
It's humbling to see the great works of art Vermeer produces for these rich collectors. Today, these pieces are housed in museums and featured in art books...and in their own time, they were merely trendy wall hanging for the rich. Fascinating.
Amongst the wheeling and dealing of he rmasters, young Grete simply tries to stay out of the way of the thundering mistress and her occasionally creepy husband. But in cleaning his studio one day, the light, the color and Grete's wide, green eyes attract the artist andman in Vermeer to capture her essence.
From this intense moment of discovery, the audience and the players involve know there's no going back.
Grete understands Johannes, and we understand him through her eyes. The sound, color and light of every close up, every experience, is laid out in beautiful and wondering detail. As if we too are seeing the world through excited, young eyes.
Every shot, every detail and every jump of a muscle between Grete and Vermeer is laced with a raging undercurrent of want and eroticism. It doesn't matter what the true inspiration for the portrait really is...Firth and Johanssen so perfectly portrayed secret desire that they did not have to have a single kiss or love scene to make the audience squirm. His mere touch of her hands when creating paint colors is enough to make one blush.
In fact, when Johanssen finally sits for the portrait and th epose and moment strikes, the audience is still so completely unprepared for the dawning of artistic realization that they are likely to get goosebumps.
It is a real shame Johanssen was not nominated for her role in this film. With few line sof dialogue, she had t express everything quiet and underlying in this film through her face and eyes. Grete simply would not have had life as a character without Johanssen's amazing acting ability.
Though it was not nominated, the film is a definite must-see for any lover of art and beauty who likes scratching below the surface...