Girl with a Pearl Earring
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It’s not easy to successfully turn a book into a screenplay—to take a few hundred pages of descriptive narration and turn it into about a hundred pages of dialogue and action, while leaving out none of the important details or explanations and changing as little of the story as possible. Few, in fact, do it well. And most of those who try end up buried in hate mail sent by fans of the book, who are upset about the things that were changed/left out/added.

Girl with a Pearl Earring was adapted from Tracy Chevalier’s novel (see my review)—a novel that I loved, both because it took place in a city that’s practically my second home and because the story was so skillfully crafted. So while I was excited to see the movie version, I was also a bit apprehensive.

  
 
Scarlett Johansson stars as Griet, a young girl in seventeenth-century Delft, a small town in the Netherlands. Her father has gone blind and can no longer make money as a painter, so Griet is sent away to support the family by working as a maid for the painter Johannes Vermeer (Colin Firth). Vermeer’s demanding and perpetually pregnant wife (Essie Davis) orders Griet to clean her husband’s studio. Eventually, Vermeer begins talking to her—he shows her his paintings, explains the use of color, and teaches her to mix his paints. He even sends her on the occasional errand without his wife’s knowledge. Meanwhile, outside the Vermeers’ home, Griet reluctantly begins a relationship with Pieter (Cillian Murphy), the butcher’s son—with some prodding from her parents, who believe he’ll do a great job of supporting her.

As she continues to work for the Vermeers, Griet deals with the suspicions of Cornelia (Alakina Mann), Vermeer’s mischievous daughter, and tries to avoid the advances of Pieter Van Ruijven (Tom Wilkinson), Vermeer’s patron, who has a reputation for cornering maids. She also struggles with her intensifying feelings for her master—who, with Van Ruijven’s encouragement, is painting her. And the more electric her relationship becomes with Vermeer, the more she finds herself running to Pieter.

As an adaptation of a book, Girl does a relatively good job—considering the constraints. But, as can be expected, there are definitely parts missing. Viewers are thrown right into the story without being given much background information—which might be a bit confusing if you didn’t read the book. And several characters and side plotlines from the book are missing, but that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that the filmmakers stuck rather closely to the original story—so fans of the book shouldn’t be too disappointed. At least I wasn’t. As a movie on its own, Girl is spectacular—well deserving of the Academy Award nominations it received. The cinematography is stunning, and Johansson and Firth play their roles flawlessly. Griet is timid and innocent, Vermeer is dark and brooding, and the relationship between them is so filled with tension that it will literally take your breath away.

Whether you’re a fan of Tracy Chevalier’s novel or not, you’ll love every breathtaking minute of Girl with a Pearl Earring.

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