This film, adapted from a work of fiction by author Tracy Chevalier, tells a story about the events surrounding the creation of the painting “Girl With A Pearl Earring” by 17th century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer. Little is known about the girl in the painting, it is speculated that she was a maid who lived in the house of the painter along with his family and other servants, though there is no historical evidence . This masterful film attempts to recreate the mysterious girl’s life. Griet, played by Scarlett Johansson, is a maid in the house of painter Johannes Vermeer, played by British actor Colin Firth. Vermeer’s wealthy patron and sole means of support, Van Ruijven, commissions him to paint Griet with the intent that he will have her for himself before it is finished. She must somehow secretly pose for the crucial painting without the knowledge of Vermeer’s wife, avoid Van Ruijven’s grasp, and protect herself from the cruel gossip of the world of a 17th century servant.
Written by thexotherxchris
Some Awards: San Sebastián International Film Festival: 2003.
The film was originally slated to star Kate Hudson and Ralph Fiennes and be directed by ‘Mike Newell’ . Hudson pulled out during preproduction (allegedly because she refused to wear a wimple for the role), which resulted in funding being pulled, and by the time new funding was secured, Newell had to move on to another project. After a director search, ‘Peter Webber’ was tapped for the job and held auditions for a new female lead. He settled on Kirsten Dunst, who then dropped the project in wake of Spider-Man (2002)’s success. At this point, Fiennes had been waiting so long that he too had to move on to other scheduled projects, and so became unavailable. Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth were then cast.
The movie was partially shot on the Venice set that had been built in Luxembourg for Secret Passage (2004). For this movie Venice was modified to become Delft.
Although Vermeer and the painting both are real historic figures, the screenplay is based on Tracy Chevalier’s novel and therefore largely fictional or hypothetical. Only 36 Vermeer paintings are known to exist today, and none of the models have ever been positively identified. A poster of the painting in her bedroom inspired Chevalier to write her own version of how it came to exist based on the framework of Vermeer’s known history. Chevalier sold the film rights and opted not to have any involvement in the film or screenplay, although after its release said she was pleased with the results.
A subplot with David Morrisey as a friend of Vermeer was dropped during editing of the film. None of his scenes feature on the DVD release.
The painting that Griet inspired Vermeer to paint while she is washing the window of his studio is called “Woman with a Water Jug”. It is currently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY.