Must Hear Music
Reviews Archives
Bargain Basement
Music DVD
Send Us Mail
Contact Us


Lions Gate Films

Official Site

Director: Peter Webber

Producers: Andy Paterson, Anand Tucker

Written by: Olivia Hetreed; based on the novel by Tracy Chevalier

Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Colin Firth, Tom Wilkinson, Judy Parfitt, Cillian Murphy, Essie Davis, Joanna Scanlan, Alakina Mann

Rating: out of 5

The mystery behind Johannes Vermeer’s 1665 painting “Girl With A Pearl Earring” inspired Tracy Chevalier to write her book of the same name. That same mysteriousness has quietly sneaked on screen with this year’s cinematic version.

Griet (Johansson) is a girl in her late teens who has been hired as a maid in the Vermeer household. Though originally slated to attend to the mistress Catharina (Davis) and to lighten the load of existing maid Tanneke (Scanlan), Griet’s perception and artful eye is noticed by the master and painter Vermeer (Firth), who begins to depend on her assistance in his studio.

Overlaid on this simple story are various relationship tensions that emerge when Griet arrives at the Vermeer home. Wife Catharina is not thrilled about having a young pretty face in her home; daughter Cornelia (Mann) wishes to cause trouble for the new maid; the butcher’s son Pieter (Murphy) begins to notice Griet; and then there is the quiet, necessarily secret kinship between Vermeer and Griet.

Chevalier’s novel, written in first person from Griet’s perspective, easily demonstrates Griet’s sensitivity with the use of mental monologues. Transferring this quality to a third-person movie is more difficult, and many of Griet’s thoughts are spoken aloud or even given to others to verbalize. It helps the audience understand what’s going on, but detracts from the uniqueness of Griet’s character. Instead of intuitively knowing that she must clean the painter’s studio carefully without moving anything Vermeer is painting, she is commanded to “move nothing” by Catharina.

Some of Griet’s intelligence is salvaged by Scarlett Johansson, who always seems to add a sense of maturity to whomever she plays. Johannes Vermeer, played by Colin Firth, is a much more dramatic man in the movie than the obscure figure of the novel. He is more forward with his partiality toward Griet, and has a volatile temper that flares up whenever she’s in trouble.

Major events from the novel come to life on screen, and those who have read the book will easily recognize them. However, the details of these events are fudged, and the timeline is jumbled. Furthermore, because we don’t have Griet’s thoughts to explain these events to us, they are either too straightforward through the now-voiced dialogue, or remain a mystery to audiences who have not read the book.

The advantage of a visual medium for this story is that this is, after all, a movie about a painter, and we can see the progression of the paintings for ourselves. We see the light from the window illuminate Griet’s face as she cleans the glass panes, and understand how she becomes Vermeer’s inspiration for a new painting. We see the undertones of the painting being carefully laid down by the artist’s brush, and we see the careful mixing of the paints.

The film itself is shot in muted colors, representing the dull gray life of Delft, Holland, in 1665. It is a lifestyle of loneliness and confusion for a girl like Griet, and it’s easy to see why she becomes so attracted to the colors of the paint, as well as the master of those colors.

—Kelly Hsu


hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...

Mike Doughty

none now

South By Southwest 2014
David DeVoe

South By Southwest 2013
David DeVoe

Red Hook Music Festival
George Dow

SXSW 2012
David DeVoe

Our Favorite Records 2011
Hybrid Staff

Rachel Fredrickson

Rachel Fredrickson

Warped Tour 2011
Rachel Fredrickson

Eddie Spaghetti
Melissa Skrbic-Huss

Murder By Death
Mike DeLeo

Mike Doughty
Boulder, CO

Denver, CO

Imagine Dragons
Denver, CO

Cambridge, MA

Young Magic
Denver, CO

Warped Tour 2012
Denver, CO

Denver, CO

Mike Doughty
Denver, CO

Kansas City, MO

Other Lives
Lawrence, KS

Los Campesinos
Boston, MA

The Civil Wars
Lawrence, KS

Ha Ha Tonka
Lawrence, KS

Lawrence, KS

hybridmagazine.com is updated daily except when it isn't.
New film reviews are posted every week like faulty clockwork.
Wanna write for hybrid? Send us an e-mail.
© 1996-2009 [noun] digital media. All rights reserved worldwide. All content on hybridmagazine.com and levelheadedmusic.com is the intellectual property of Hybrid Magazine and its respective creators. No part of hybridmagazine.com or levelheadedmusic.com may be reproduced in any format without expressed written permission. For complete masthead and physical mailing address, Click Here.