Girl with a Pearl Earring (review)

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What inspired one of Johannes Vermeer’s most enigmatic paintings, a portrait of a sad, mysterious girl wearing a blue headband and a single earring? This speculative but informed story, based on Tracy Chevalier’s best-selling novel, posits domestic intrigue at the 17th-century Delft household of the painter (Colin Firth: Love Actually) when a new maid, young Griet (Scarlett Johansson: Lost in Translation), incurs the jealousy of Vermeer’s wife and daughter, and scandal ensues. Powered by Machiavellian personal politics, this is a delicately underplayed film, bolstered by sensitive performances from Firth and Johansson — the scene in which he pierces her ear, drawing blood, so that she can pose for him wearing the famous earring, borrowed surreptitiously from his wife, is typical of the subtle eroticism that suffuses their relationship. Most lovely of all, director Peter Webber turns every frame into momentary Vermeer canvases, elegant interplays of light, shadow, and muted color.

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