March 28, 2004

Girl with a Pearl Earring

Griet is really beautiful. This is the obvious truth that is never once spoken by the men who lust for her in this story. Silence is used so effectively in Girl with a Pearl Earring. This is a beautiful film. Griet is a housemaid in a really dysfunctional house. The painter Johannes Vermeer is basically under house arrest to his mother-in-law who sells his paintings. The paintings are still famous today, over 400 years after he painted them, so he must've been good. This setting is 1665 Holland.

I don't usually go for period pieces that look like half the budget went for costume deployment. But they tend to stretch out to 2.5 hours or more. Earring is an artfully sparse 95 minutes. And I think since they didn't overdo the setting, this made the visuals all the more powerful for me.

Johannes sees Griet's (Scarlet Johannsen) plump lips and he is smitten, as is the patron, Van Riesen -- Tom Wilkinson's character -- the guy who buys Johannes' paintings. I guess that's how they did it in those days. Each rich guy had his own painter.

Apparently Johannes is supporting his wife and wife's mom, and paying for the help. But the old lady runs things.

Like I said they use silence very effectively. So much is not spoken but obvious. Griet has a guy her own age who likes her too -- a fellow commoner -- the son of the butcher who sells meat to her house. She gets all this attention and never shows her hair.

Griet has her self-respect, but she reminds you of Cinderella, the way she's at the bottom of the food chain in this bizarre house. She rarely speaks, but there really is no need. She says everything with her eyes. I didn't quite figure out why she was indentured this way, but I think it was because her father was blinded and she had to earn money to help her parents.

She winds up getting into one of the master's paintings, and this sends the house into a scandalous uproar. I haven't said shit about Johannes' wife. She's the biggest piece o' work in the story.

But this is a great little arthouse drama. We saw it at the Madstone tonight, the Burque's sparsely attended artplex.

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Posted by: jenny at June 21, 2004 02:32 AM
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