The past year had its fair share of literary adaptations, most notably ‘Cold Mountain,’ ‘Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World’ and ‘Mystic River,’ all of which received much critical acclaim. ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ undoubtedly falls into the same category, mostly because of a wonderful, Golden Globe-nominated performance by Scarlett Johansson (‘Lost in Translation’) and beautiful art direction.
Based upon the book by Tracy Chevalier, the considerably faithful cinematic adaptation of ‘Girl’ is a tale of Griet (Johansson)a young peasant lass, who is sent to work as a maid for the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer (Colin Firth, ‘Love Actually’) and his family. As she spends long, tiring hours cleaning Vermeer”s studio, Griet slowly becomes absorbed into the artist”s world. Eventually she forms a bond with Vermeer and is chosen to pose for one of his most controversial paintings.
‘Girl’ is a riveting story driven by hidden desires and little dialogue. Griet barely speaks, though dialogue would have clogged up the intimate artistic space she shares with Vermeer. Johansson”s body language alone is remarkably powerful and compensates more than enough for any lack of words. Firth also portrays the darkly brooding Vermeer with a quiet intrigue, allowing his growing interest for his unexpected artistic muse to be reflected in his smile and penetrating gaze.
Each shot in ‘Girl’ translates perfectly into the true reality of Vermeer”s art, taking on the color, lighting and stillness of his oil paintings. The film and book are accurately based upon an actual Vermeer painting, ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring,’ and Johansson is eerily its twin, a quality that sweeps over the film. Even though ‘Girl’ offers little conflict, the shadowy relationship between Vermeer and Griet captivates, allowing the imagination to wander in this darkly quiet, yet magical world of art.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.