Girl with a Pearl Earring (film)

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Girl with a Pearl Earring
Girl with a pearl earring.jpg
UK theatrical release poster
Directed by Peter Webber
Produced by
Screenplay by Olivia Hetreed
Based on Girl with a Pearl Earring
by Tracy Chevalier
Music by Alexandre Desplat
Cinematography Eduardo Serra
Edited byKate Evans
  • UK Film Council
  • Archer Street Productions
  • DeLux Productions
  • Inside Track
  • Film Fund Luxembourg
  • Wild Bear Films [1]
Distributed by
Release date
  • 31 August 2003 (2003-08-31)(Telluride)
  • 16 January 2004 (2004-01-16)(United Kingdom)
  • 30 January 2004 (2004-01-30)(United States)
Running time
100 minutes
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • Luxembourg [2] [3]
Budget£10 million
Box office$31.4 million

Girl with a Pearl Earring is a 2003 romantic drama film directed by Peter Webber. The screenplay was adapted by screenwriter Olivia Hetreed, based on the 1999 novel of the same name by Tracy Chevalier. Scarlett Johansson stars as Griet, a young 17th-century servant in the household of the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer (played by Colin Firth) at the time he painted Girl with a Pearl Earring (1665) in the city of Delft in Holland. Other cast members include Tom Wilkinson, Cillian Murphy, and Judy Parfitt.

Romance film film genre

Romance films or romance movies are romantic love stories recorded in visual media for broadcast in theaters and on TV that focus on passion, emotion, and the affectionate romantic involvement of the main characters and the journey that their genuinely strong, true and pure romantic love takes them through dating, courtship or marriage. Romance films make the romantic love story or the search for strong and pure love and romance the main plot focus. Occasionally, romance lovers face obstacles such as finances, physical illness, various forms of discrimination, psychological restraints or family that threaten to break their union of love. As in all quite strong, deep, and close romantic relationships, tensions of day-to-day life, temptations, and differences in compatibility enter into the plots of romantic films.

Peter Webber is a British director who is best known for his debut feature film Girl with a Pearl Earring and Hannibal Rising.

Olivia Hetreed is a British screenwriter and editor, and the current president of the Writers' Guild of Great Britain. In 2003, she received a BAFTA nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay for adapting Tracy Chevalier's best-selling novel Girl with a Pearl Earring into the film of the same name. Hetreed has also been credited as the screenwriter for productions based on the works of Geoffrey Chaucer, Emily Brontë, and Caroline Lawrence. As a result, she has been called an "expert in literary adaptations."


Hetreed read the novel before its publication, and her husband's production company convinced Chevalier to sell the film rights. Initially, the production was to feature Kate Hudson as Griet with Mike Newell directing. Hudson withdrew shortly before filming began, however, and the film was placed in hiatus until the hire of Webber, who re-initiated the casting process.

Film rights are rights under copyright law to produce a film as a derivative work of a given item of intellectual property. In US law, these rights belong to the holder of the copyright, who may sell them to someone in the film industry—usually a producer or director, or sometimes a specialist broker of such properties—who will then try to gather industry professionals and secure the financial backing necessary to convert the property into a film. Such rights differ from the right to commercially exhibit a finished motion picture, which rights are usually referred to as "exhibition rights" or "public-performance rights".

Kate Hudson American actress

Kate Garry Hudson is an American actress, author, and fashion designer. She rose to prominence for her performance in the film Almost Famous (2000), for which she won a Golden Globe and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Her other films include How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003), Raising Helen (2004), The Skeleton Key (2005), You, Me and Dupree (2006), Fool's Gold (2008), Bride Wars (2009), Nine (2009), and Deepwater Horizon (2016).

Mike Newell (director) British producer and director

Michael Cormac Newell is an English director and producer of motion pictures for film and television, best known for directing Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Newell won the 1994 BAFTA Award for Best Direction for Four Weddings and a Funeral.

In his feature film debut, Webber sought to avoid employing traditional characteristics[ clarification needed ] of the period film drama. [4] In a 2003 interview with IGN, he said, "What I was scared of is ending up with something that was like Masterpiece Theatre, [that] very polite Sunday evening BBC kind of thing, and I [was] determined to make something quite different from that..." Cinematographer Eduardo Serra used distinctive lighting and colour schemes similar to Vermeer's paintings.

Eduardo Martins Serra is a Portuguese cinematographer who spend most of his career working in European film productions, mostly in French, Portuguese and British films, with frequent collaborations with directors Patrice Leconte and Claude Chabrol. Serra is best known for his work on the final two Harry Potter films, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.

Released on 12 December 2003 in North America and on 16 January 2004 in the United Kingdom, Girl with a Pearl Earring earned a worldwide gross of $31.4 million. It garnered a mostly positive critical reception, with a 72% approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes. Critics generally applauded the film's visuals and performances while questioning elements of its story. The film was subsequently nominated for ten British Academy Film Awards, three Academy Awards, and two Golden Globe Awards.

Rotten Tomatoes American review aggregator for film and television, owned by Fandango

Rotten Tomatoes is an American review-aggregation website for film and television. The company was launched in August 1998 by three undergraduate students at the University of California, Berkeley: Senh Duong, Patrick Y. Lee, and Stephen Wang. The name "Rotten Tomatoes" derives from the practice of audiences throwing rotten tomatoes when disapproving of a poor stage performance.

Academy Awards American awards given annually for excellence in cinematic achievements

The Academy Awards, also officially and popularly known as the Oscars, are awards for artistic and technical merit in the film industry. Given annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), the awards are an international recognition of excellence in cinematic achievements as assessed by the Academy's voting membership. The various category winners are awarded a copy of a golden statuette, officially called the "Academy Award of Merit", although more commonly referred to by its nickname "Oscar". The statuette depicts a knight rendered in Art Deco style.


Griet is a shy girl living in the Dutch Republic in 1665. Her father, a Delftware painter, has recently gone blind, rendering him unable to work and putting his family in a precarious financial situation. To help matters, Griet is sent to work as a maid in the household of famed painter Johannes Vermeer. Griet works hard, almost wordlessly, in the lowest position in a harsh hierarchy. She does her best to adjust, despite the unkind treatment from Vermeer's spoiled adolescent daughter Cornelia. While she is on a routine shopping trip outside the house, a butcher's son, Pieter, notices Griet and is drawn to her. However, she is slow to return his affections as their relationship develops.

Dutch Republic Republican predecessor state of the Netherlands from 1581 to 1795

The United Provinces of the Netherlands, or simply United Provinces, and commonly referred to historiographically as the Dutch Republic, was a confederal republic formally established from the formal creation of a confederacy in 1581 by several Dutch provinces—seceded from Spanish rule—until the Batavian Revolution of 1795. It was a predecessor state of the Netherlands and the first fully independent Dutch nation state.

Delftware Type of glazed pottery, originating from the Low Countries

Delftware or Delft pottery, also known as Delft Blue, is a general term now used for Dutch tin-glazed earthenware, a form of faience. Most of it is blue and white pottery, and the city of Delft in the Netherlands was the major centre of production, but the term covers wares with other colours, and made elsewhere. It is also used for similar pottery that it influenced made in England, but this should be called English delftware to avoid confusion.

Maid young girl or woman employed to do household work in employers home

A maid, or housemaid or maidservant, is a female domestic worker. Although now usually found only in the most wealthy of households, in the Victorian era domestic service was the second largest category of employment in England and Wales, after agricultural work.

As Griet cleans Vermeer's studio, which his wife Catharina never enters, the painter begins to converse with her and encourages her appreciation of painting, light and color. Vermeer gives her lessons in mixing paints and other tasks, taking care to keep this secret from his wife, who would react with anger and jealousy if she found out that her husband was spending time with Griet. In contrast, Vermeer's pragmatic mother-in-law, Maria Thins, sees Griet as useful to Vermeer's career.

Maria Thins was the mother-in-law of Johannes Vermeer and a member of the Gouda Thins family.

Vermeer's rich patron, Van Ruijven, notices Griet on a visit to the Vermeer household and asks the painter if he will give her up to work in his own house, a situation which "ruined" his former girl-maid. Vermeer refuses, but agrees to paint a portrait of Griet for Van Ruijven.

As Vermeer secretly works on the painting, Catharina cannot help but notice something is amiss. Her growing disdain for Griet becomes more apparent, spurred on by Van Ruijven's deliberate suggestions of an improper relationship between Vermeer and the young maid. A conflicted Griet must deal with her growing fascination with Vermeer and his talent, and subsequently fend off Van Ruijven, who attempts to rape her in the courtyard. Later, when Catharina is out for the day, her mother hands Griet her daughter's pearl earrings, and asks Vermeer to finish the painting. At the final painting session, Vermeer pierces Griet's left earlobe so she can wear one of the earrings for the portrait. The tension heightens considerably when Griet reacts to the pain, and Vermeer tenderly caresses her face. Griet then runs to Pieter to be consoled, and presumably distracted from her thoughts of Vermeer. They embrace and make love in a barn, where Pieter proposes marriage, but Griet unexpectedly leaves. She then returns the earrings to Catharina's mother.

Later, Catharina flies into a rage upon discovering Griet used her earrings. She storms into the studio, accuses her mother of complicity, and demands Vermeer show her the commissioned portrait. Offended by the intimate nature of the painting, Catharina dismisses it as "obscene," and tearfully asks why Vermeer won't paint her. When Vermeer responds, "Because you don't understand," she tries but fails to destroy the painting. She then banishes Griet from the house forever, to which Vermeer does not object, and lets Griet depart. Later, Griet is visited by Vermeer's house cook Tanneke, who comes bearing her a gift: the blue headscarf she wore in the painting, wrapped around Catharina's pearl earrings.

The film ends with a slow reveal of the real-life painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring .




Vermeer's original painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring from 1665 Meisje met de parel.jpg
Vermeer's original painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring from 1665

The production of Girl with a Pearl Earring began in 1999, when screenwriter Olivia Hetreed gained access to Tracy Chevalier's novel Girl with a Pearl Earring shortly before its publication in August. [5] [note 1] The novel had not yet become a best-seller, but several groups were beginning to show interest. [6] Hetreed loved the character of Griet and "her determination to be free in a world where that was almost impossible for a girl from her background." [9] Anand Tucker and Hetreed's husband Andy Paterson  – both producers with the small British studio Archer Street Films [8] [10]  – approached the novel's author, Tracy Chevalier, for a film adaptation. Chevalier agreed, believing that a British studio would help resist Hollywood's urge "to sex up the film." [6] [11] She stipulated that their adaptation avoid having the main characters consummate their relationship. Paterson and Tucker promised to "replicate the 'emotional truth' of the story [...]," and Chevalier did not seek to retain control during the film's creative process, though she briefly considered adapting it herself. [6] [12]

Hetreed worked closely with Tucker and Webber to adapt the book, explaining that "working with them on drafts helped me to concentrate on what the film would be, rather than how beautifully I could make a line work." [6] Her first draft was closest to the source material and it slowly "developed its own character" through rewrites. [6] She avoided using a voiceover, which was present in the novel, "partly because it would make it very literary." [6] Instead, she focused on conveying Griet's thoughts visually – for example, in her adaptation Griet and Vermeer inspect the camera obscura together under his cloak amidst sexual tension; whereas, in the novel Griet views it alone immediately after him and enjoys the lasting warmth and scent he leaves. [6] [13]

The novel maximises the few known facts of Vermeer's life, which Hetreed described as "little pillars sticking up out of the dust of history." [6] To learn more about the artist, the screenwriter researched Dutch society in the 17th-century, talked to artist friends about painting, and interviewed a Victoria & Albert Museum art historian who had restored the original artwork. [6] Hetreed stayed in close contact with Chevalier, and the two became so close near the end of the production that they presented a Master class together on screenwriting. [9]


Originally, the American actress Kate Hudson was cast as Griet, [10] having successfully pursued the role from the film's producers. In September 2001, however, Hudson pulled out four weeks before filming began, officially due to "creative differences". [14] [15] Hudson's decision scuppered the production and led to the loss of financial support from the production company Intermedia. It also resulted in the withdrawal of Mike Newell as director and Ralph Fiennes as Vermeer; Fiennes left the project to work on his 2002 film Maid in Manhattan . [5] Due to this incident, The Guardian reported that it "now seems unlikely that the film will ever be made." [14]

Scarlett Johansson bleached her eyebrows to better resemble the subject of Vermeer's painting. Scarlett Johansson in Kuwait 01b-tweaked.jpg
Scarlett Johansson bleached her eyebrows to better resemble the subject of Vermeer's painting.

Production started again later that year when the producers hired the relatively unknown British television director Peter Webber to head the project, [9] [16] despite his not having directed a feature film before. [8] [17] Tucker and Paterson already knew Webber from several earlier projects; [9] the director discovered the project by accident after visiting their office, where he noticed a poster of Vermeer's work and began discussing it. [16] Webber read the script and described it as being "about creativity and the link between art and money and power and sex in some strange unholy mixture." [18] Characterising it as a "coming of age" story with a "fascinating dark undertow," [8] Webber deliberately did not read the book prior to filming, as he was concerned about being influenced by it, opting instead to rely on the script and the period. [19]

The casting of Griet was Webber's first major step, and led to interviews with 150 girls before Webber chose the 17-year-old actress Scarlett Johansson. He felt that she "just stood out. She had something distinctive about her." [17] Johansson seemed very modern to Webber, but he believed this was a positive attribute, realising "that what would work was to take this intelligent, zippy girl and repress all that." [8] The actress finished filming Lost in Translation immediately before arriving on set in Luxembourg, and consequently prepared little for the role. She considered the script "beautifully written" and the character "very touching", [20] but did not read the book because she thought it would be better to approach the story with a "clean slate." [8] [21]

After the hiring of Johansson, other major casting decisions quickly followed, beginning with the addition of English actor Colin Firth as Vermeer. [16] Firth and Webber, both of a similar age and background, spent significant time discussing Vermeer's personality and lifestyle in the period leading up to the beginning of filming. [20] While researching the role, Firth realised that Vermeer was "incredibly elusive as an artist." [8] As a result, unlike Webber and Johansson, Firth chose to read the book to gain a better grasp of a man of whom little information existed on his private life. [19] Firth sought to "invent" the character and discover his motivations, and ultimately identified with the artist for having a private space in the midst of a bustling family. Firth also studied painting techniques and visited museums carrying Vermeer works. [8] [22]

After Firth, Webber's next casting decision was Tom Wilkinson as the patron Pieter van Ruijven, who was hired in late 2002. [16] [23] He was soon joined by Judy Parfitt as Vermeer's domineering mother-in-law, and Essie Davis, who portrayed Vermeer's wife Catharina. [9] [16] The Australian daughter of an artist, Davis did not believe her character was the film's "bad guy," as "[Catharina] has a certain role to play for you to want Griet and Vermeer to be involved." [24] Cillian Murphy, known for his recent role in 28 Days Later , was hired as Pieter, Griet's butcher love interest. [25] Murphy, taking on his first period film role, was interested in serving as a foil to Firth's Vermeer, and representing the "ordinary" world that Griet seeks to avoid upon her meeting the artist. [9] Other cast members included Joanna Scanlan as the maid Tanneke, as well as the young actresses Alakina Mann and Anna Popplewell as Vermeer's daughters, Cornelia and Maertge, respectively. [9]


During preproduction, Webber and cinematographer Eduardo Serra studied the period's artwork and discussed the different moods they wanted to create for each scene. [26] The director was a lover of the Stanley Kubrick period drama Barry Lyndon , but knew that Girl With a Pearl Earring would be different; unlike the former film's "elaborate and expensive set pieces", Webber's production was to be "about the intimate relationships within a single household." [27] He was not seeking to create a historically accurate biographical film of Vermeer; [19] Webber sought to direct a period film that avoided being "overly slavish" to characteristics of the genre, desiring instead to "bring the film to life" and have viewers "be able almost to smell the meat in the market." [8] Webber employed little dialogue and drew inspiration from the "quiet, tense, mysterious, transcendent world" of Vermeer's paintings. [18] The director also made a conscious effort to slow the pace of the film, hoping that by "slowing things down [we could] create these moments in between the dialogue that were full of emotion. And the more silent the film became, the closer it seemed to be to the condition of those Vermeer paintings and the closer it seemed to capture some kind of truth." [28]

The filmmakers studied Vermeer works such as The Little Street Johannes Vermeer - Gezicht op huizen in Delft, bekend als 'Het straatje' - Google Art Project.jpg
The filmmakers studied Vermeer works such as The Little Street

The film was budgeted at £10 million. [10] While it is set in Delft, the film was primarily shot in Amsterdam, Belgium, and Luxembourg. [12] [29] Chevalier later remarked that Webber and Serra "needed absolute control of the space and light they worked with – something they could never achieve by shutting down a busy Delft street for an hour or two." [12] Only a few exterior shots were filmed in Delft. [8]

Webber hired Ben van Os as his production designer because "he wasn't intimidated by the period obligations. He was much more interested in story and character." [27] For inspiration in constructing the film's sets, Webber and van Os studied the works of Vermeer and other artists of the period, such as Gerard ter Borch. [8] Set designer Todd van Hulzen said the goal was to "reflect that quiet, sober, almost moralizing ethos that you see in Dutch paintings." [8] They built Vermeer's house on one of Luxembourg's largest film soundstages, a three-story set where they designed rooms that were meant to convey a lack of privacy. According to van Os, the film was about "being observed," so they intended Griet to always feel that she was being watched. [27] In addition, they built two other interior sets to represent the homes of Griet and van Ruijven – Griet's home possessed Calvinistic characteristics while van Ruijven's contained mounted animals to reflect his "predatory nature." [27] The Mauritshuis museum made a high resolution photograph of the actual painting, which was then shot on a rostrum camera to be used in the film. [30]

According to Webber, Serra "was obsessed with reproducing the amazing use of light by the artists of that period, and most particularly Vermeer's use of it." [26] To reflect the "magical luminosity" of Vermeer's artwork, Serra employed diffused lighting and different film stock when filming scenes in the artist's studio. [8] Webber and Serra did not want to be too reliant on Vermeer's aesthetic, however; they wanted audiences to come away focusing their praise on its story, not its visuals. [26]

Costume design and make-up

In desiring to avoid stereotypes of the costume drama, Webber costumed his actors in simple outfits he termed "period Prada," rather than use the ruffles and baggy costumes common for the era. The intent was to "take the real clothes from the period and reduce them to their essence." [27] Costume designer Dien van Straalen explored London and Holland markets in search for period fabrics, including curtains and slipcovers. [27] For Griet, van Straalen employed "pale colors for Scarlett Johansson to give her the drab look of a poor servant girl." [27] Firth was also outfitted simply, as Vermeer was not rich. [27] Van Straalen created more elaborate costumes for Wilkinson, as van Ruijven was to her "a peacock strutting around with his money." [27]

Make-up and hair designer Jenny Shircore desired that Griet appear without make-up, so Johansson was given very little; rather, Shircore focused on maintaining the actress' skin as "milky, thick and creamy ," and bleached her eyebrows. [27] They gave Davis as Catharina a "very simple Dutch hairstyle", which they learned from studying drawings and prints of the period. [27]


The musical score for Girl with a Pearl Earring was written by the French composer Alexandre Desplat. Webber decided to hire Desplat after hearing a score he had composed for a Jacques Audiard film. Webber explained, "He had a sense of restraint and a sense of lyricism that I liked. I remember the first time I saw the cue where Griet opens the shutters. He was really describing what the light was doing, articulating that in a musical sphere." [31] Desplat was then known primarily for scoring films in his native language. [32] [33]

The score employs strings, piano, and woodwinds, with a central theme featuring a variety of instrumental forms. [34] Desplat created a melody that recurs throughout the film, stating in a later interview that "it evolves and it's much more flowing with a very gentle theme that's haunting." [35] The score, his career breakthrough, gained him international attention and garnered him further film projects. [36] [37] The soundtrack was released in 2004; [34] it earned a nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score, helping increase Desplat's name recognition in Hollywood. [38]

Desplat's work also garnered positive reviews. The New York Times described it as a " gorgeous score ...[which] brushes in a haunted gloom that gives the picture life where none seems to exist," [39] whilst said it "burbles with elegant baroque minimalism." [40] Empire magazine called his score "a supremely elegant work" that "creates a captivating atmosphere of cautious emotion and wonderment, the true highlight being 'Colours in the Clouds', so simply majestic that it really captures the heart of the story." [34]


In the interest of shortening the adaptation, approximately one-third of the story was eventually edited out; [6] entire subplots and characters were removed. [12] Before becoming a screenwriter Hetreed worked as an editor, and credits this experience for knowing "about structure and what you need to say and what you can leave out. I am a big enthusiast for leaving things out." [41] She focused the story on the relationship between Griet and Vermeer, deciding what other storylines were "distracting and had to be jettisoned. Before editing, there was great stuff there, but Peter was fantastically ruthless." [6] Changes from the novel did not bother Chevalier, who felt that as a result the film gained "a focused, driven plot and a sumptuous visual feast." [12]

Themes and analysis

According to Webber, Girl with a Pearl Earring is "more than just a quaint little film about art" but is concerned with themes of money, sex, repression, obsession, power, and the human heart. [20] Laura M. Sager Eidt in her book, Writing and Filming the Painting: Ekphrasis in Literature and Film, asserts that the film deviates significantly from the source material and emphasises a "socio-political dimension that is subtler in the novel." [42] Girl with a Pearl Earring, Sager Eidt says, "shifts its focus from a young girl's evolving consciousness to the class and power relations in the story." [43]

In his work, Film England: Culturally English Filmmaking Since the 1990s, author Andrew Higson notes that the film overcomes the novel's "subjective narration" device by having the camera stay fixed on Griet for much of the film. But, Higson says, "no effort is made to actually render her point of view as the point of view of the film or the spectator." [44]

Vermeer channels Griet's sexual awakening into his painting, with the piercing of her ear and his directives to her posing being inherently sexual. [45] [46] In the opinion of psychologist Rosemary Rizq, the pearl Griet dons is a metaphor, something which normally would convey wealth and status. But, when worn by Griet the pearl is also a directive to the audience to look at the "psychological potential within" her erotic, unconsummated bond with Vermeer, unclear up to that point if it is real or not. [47]

The film incorporates seven of Vermeer's paintings into its story. [48] [note 2] Thomas Leitch, in his book Film Adaptation and Its Discontents: From Gone with the Wind to The Passion of the Christ, writes that while Chevalier's Griet describes ten Vermeer paintings (without naming them), Webber's film avoids "show[ing] an external world that looks like a series of Vermeer paintings," as this would have been a trivialisation of the artist's achievements. [49] Leitch adds the director "compromises by showing far fewer actual Vermeer paintings than Chevalier's Griet describes but lingering longer over the visual particulars of the studio in which he creates them." [49]


Box office

Girl With a Pearl Earring's world premiere occurred at the Telluride Film Festival on 31 August 2003. [50] In North America it was distributed by Lions Gate Entertainment. [9] The film was limited in release to seven cinemas on 12 December 2003, landing in 32nd place for the week with $89,472. Lions Gate slowly increased its release to a peak of 402 cinemas by 6 February 2004. [51] Its total domestic gross was $11,670,971. [52]

The film was released in the United Kingdom on 16 January 2004 [53] by Pathé Films. [9] In its opening week, the film finished in tenth place with a total of £384,498 from 106 cinemas. [54] In the UK and Ireland, the film finished in 14th place for the year with a total box office gross of £3.84 million. [55] It had a worldwide gross of $31,466,789. [52]

Home media

In the US, the Girl With a Pearl Earring DVD was released on 4 May 2004 by Lions Gate. [56] The Region 2 DVD's release on 31 May 2004 included audio commentaries from Webber, Paterson, Hetreed, and Chevalier; a featurette on "The Art of Filmmaking"; and eight deleted scenes. [57]


"In paring the novel down, he's taken the fire out of the fusion of art and eroticism which powers Griet's and Vermeer's feeling for one another. For all the sunlight that shines into his studio, there's no air – the sense of two people breathing easily in one another's company. And the film needs that. Without it, for all Webber's fetish for exquisite detail, it's a strangely remote experience. You come away soothed by its beauty. But later, when its tranquillising effects wear off, you wonder about the risks not taken and the opportunities missed."

 – Sandra Hall in a review for The Sydney Morning Herald [58]

The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes calculated a 72% approval rating based on reviews from 175 critics, with an average score of 6.9/10. The website reported the critical consensus as "visually arresting, but the story could be told with a bit more energy." [59] Critical reception of Girl With a Pearl Earring was mixed, [49] with reviewers positively emphasising the film's visuals and performances while questioning elements of its story. Historian Alex von Tunzelmann, writing for The Guardian , praised the film for its "sumptuous design and incredible Vermeerish appearance" but felt that "it's a bit too much like watching paint dry." [60] In The Observer , Philip French referred to the film as "quiet, intelligent and well-acted" and believed that "most people will be impressed by, and carry away in their mind's eye, the film's appearance ... [Serra, van Os, and van Strallen] have given the movie a self-conscious beauty." [61]

The BBC's review, written by Susan Hodgetts, described the film as "a superior British costume drama that expertly mixes art history with romantic fiction", which would appeal to "anyone who likes serious, intelligent drama and gentle erotic tension." [62] Hodgetts said that both Firth and Johansson gave "excellent" performances who did "a grand job of expressing feelings and emotions without the use of much dialogue, and the picture is the better for it." [62] Elvis Mitchell of The New York Times called the film an "earnest, obvious melodrama with no soul, filled with the longing silences that come after a sigh." [39] Mitchell did however laud its cinematography, production design, and musical score, [39] as did the Film Journal International 's Erica Abeel. Despite praising its visuals, Abeel criticized Girl with a Pearl Earring for being "a chick flick dressed up in Old Master clothes" and for failing "to render Griet's growing artistic sensibility dramatically credible." [63] She cited its melodramatic villains as another failing, but concluded that it was "to Johansson's credit that she alone pulls something plausible out of her character." [63]

Sandra Hall of The Sydney Morning Herald praised Webber's ability to "build individual moments [such as] the crackle of a bed-sheet which has grown an ice overcoat after being hung out to dry in the wintry air", but opined that he failed to "invest these elegant reproductions of the art of the period with the emotional charge you've been set up to expect." [58] Griet and Vermeer's relationship, Hall wrote, lacked "the sense of two people breathing easily in one another's company." [58] Owen Gleiberman, writing for Entertainment Weekly , remarked that Girl with a Pearl Earring "brings off something that few dramas about artists do. It gets you to see the world through new – which is to say, old – eyes." [64] Gleiberman added that while Johansson is silent for most of the film, "the interplay on her face of fear, ignorance, curiosity, and sex is intensely dramatic." [64] In Sight & Sound , David Jays wrote that "Johansson's marvellous performance builds on the complex innocence of her screen presence ( Ghost World , Lost in Translation)." [46] Jays concluded his review by praising Webber and Serra's ability to "deftly deploy daylight, candle and shadow, denying our desire to see clearly just as Vermeer refuses to explicate the situations in his paintings. The film's scenarios may be unsurprising, but Webber's solemn evocation of art in a grey world gives his story an apt, unspoken gravity." [46]


AwardCategoryRecipients and nomineesResult
Academy Awards [65] Best Art Direction Ben van OsNominated
Best Cinematography Eduardo SerraNominated
Best Costume Design Dien van StraalenNominated
Art Directors Guild [66] Excellence in Production Design Award – Period or Fantasy FilmBen van Os, Christina SchafferNominated
British Academy Film Awards [67] Best Actress Scarlett JohanssonNominated
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Judy ParfittNominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Olivia HetreedNominated
Best Art DirectionBen van OsNominated
Best British Film Girl with a Pearl EarringNominated
Best Cinematography Eduardo SerraNominated
Best Costume Design Dien van StraalenNominated
Best Makeup & Hair Jenny ShircoreNominated
Best Score Alexandre DesplatNominated
Most Promising NewcomerPeter WebberNominated
British Independent Film Awards [68] Best Achievement in ProductionGirl With a Pearl EarringNominated
Best ActressScarlett JohanssonNominated
Douglas Hickox Award (Debut Director)Peter WebberNominated
British Society of Cinematographers Best Cinematography AwardEduardo SerraNominated
Camerimage [69] Bronze FrogEduardo SerraWon
Golden FrogEduardo SerraNominated
European Film Awards [70] [71] Best ActorColin FirthNominated
Best CinematographerEduardo SerraWon
Best ComposerAlexandre DesplatNominated
Golden Globe Awards [72] Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama Scarlett JohanssonNominated
Best Original Score Alexandre DesplatNominated
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards [73] CinematographyEduardo SerraWon
San Diego Film Critics Society Awards [74] Best CinematographyEduardo SerraWon
San Sebastián International Film Festival [75] Best CinematographyEduardo SerraWon

See also


  1. Screenwriter Olivia Hetreed gained early access to the book because she shared the same agent as Chevalier, [6] [7] and read it in two hours. [8]
  2. These paintings were Woman with a Water Jug , View of Delft , The Milkmaid , The Girl with the Wine Glass , Girl with a Pearl Earring , The Concert , and Woman with a Pearl Necklace . [48]

Related Research Articles

Johannes Vermeer 17th-century Dutch painter

Johannes Vermeer was a Dutch Baroque Period painter who specialized in domestic interior scenes of middle class life. He was a moderately successful provincial genre painter in his lifetime but evidently was not wealthy, leaving his wife and children in debt at his death, perhaps because he produced relatively few paintings.

Girl with a Pearl Earring is a painting by Johannes Vermeer.

Tracy Chevalier American writer

Tracy Rose Chevalier, is an American-British historical novelist. She has written eight novels. She is best known for her second novel, Girl with a Pearl Earring, which was adapted as a 2003 film starring Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth.

Alexandre Desplat French film composer

Alexandre Michel Gérard Desplat is a French film composer, of Greek descent. He has won two Academy Awards, for his musical scores to the films The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Shape of Water, and received eight additional Academy Award nominations, eight César nominations, nine BAFTA nominations, ten Golden Globe Award nominations, and six Grammy nominations.

<i>Girl with a Pearl Earring</i> 1665 painting by Johannes Vermeer, in the collection of the Mauritshuis

Girl with a Pearl Earring is an oil painting by Dutch Golden Age painter Johannes Vermeer, dated c. 1665. Going by various names over the centuries, it became known by its present title towards the end of the 20th century after the large pearl earring worn by the girl portrayed there. The work has been in the collection of the Mauritshuis in The Hague since 1902 and has been the subject of various literary treatments. In 2006, the Dutch public selected it as the most beautiful painting in the Netherlands.

<i>Girl with a Pearl Earring</i> (soundtrack) 2004 soundtrack album by Alexandre Desplat

Girl with a Pearl Earring: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is the soundtrack album to the 2003 film Girl with a Pearl Earring starring Scarlett Johansson, Colin Firth, Tom Wilkinson, Cillian Murphy and Judy Parfitt. It was composed by French film composer Alexandre Desplat.

<i>Girl with a Pearl Earring</i> (novel) Book by Tracy Chevalier

Girl with a Pearl Earring is a 1999 historical novel written by Tracy Chevalier. Set in 17th-century Delft, Holland, the novel was inspired by local painter Johannes Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring. Chevalier presents a fictional account of Vermeer, the model and the painting. The novel was adapted into a 2003 film of the same name and a 2008 play.

<i>The Concert</i> (Vermeer) stolen painting by Johannes Vermeer

The Concert is a painting by Dutchman Johannes Vermeer depicting a man and two women performing music. It belonged to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, but was stolen in 1990 and remains missing.

Pieter van Ruijven Dutch patron

Pieter Claesz. van Ruijven is best known as Johannes Vermeer's patron for the better part of the artist's career.

Girl with a Pearl Earring is a 2008 play. Adapted by David Joss Buckley from the novel of the same title by Tracy Chevalier, it premiered at the Cambridge Arts Theatre. It then received its London premiere at the Theatre Royal Haymarket on 29 September 2008, directed by Joe Dowling and designed by Peter Mumford. Its London run had been scheduled to end on 1 November, but after largely poor reviews and in a poor financial climate it closed early on 18 October.

Andy Paterson is a British film producer and former second unit director. He is married to Olivia Hetreed. He was educated at Bolton School and Oriel College, Oxford.

<i>Study of a Young Woman</i> painting by Johannes Vermeer

Study of a Young Woman is a painting by the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer, completed between 1665 and 1667, and now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

<i>Girl with a Red Hat</i> painting by Johannes Vermeer

Girl with a Red Hat is a rather small painting, signed by the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer. It is seen as one of a number of Vermeer's tronies – depictions of models fancifully dressed that were not intended to be portraits of specific, identifiable subjects. Others believe it is a portrait. Whether Vermeer chose family members as models or found them elsewhere in Delft is irrelevant to the appreciation of his paintings. Its attribution to Vermeer – as it is on a (recycled) wood panel and not on canvas – has been a matter of controversy with scholars on both sides of the argument.

<i>A Girl Asleep</i> painting by Johannes Vermeer

A Girl Asleep, also known as A Woman Asleep, A Woman Asleep at Table, and A Maid Asleep, is a painting by the Dutch master Johannes Vermeer, 1657. It is housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and may not be lent elsewhere under the terms of the donor's bequest.

Jacob Abrahamsz. Dissius was a Dutch typographer and printer. He is most notable as an art collector and for his links to Johannes Vermeer - his collection included 21 Vermeer works and in 1680 he married Madgdalene, daughter and sole heir of Vermeer's main patron Pieter van Ruijven. Dissius died in 1695 and his collection was auctioned off in Amsterdam the following year.

<i>Woman with a Pearl Necklace</i> painting by Johannes Vermeer

Woman with a Pearl Necklace by Johannes Vermeer is a seventeenth-century Northern European painting. Painted in oils on canvas, Johannes Vermeer portrayed a young Dutch woman, most likely of upper-class-descent, dressing herself with two yellow ribbons, pearl earrings, and a pearl necklace. As a very popular artist of the 17th century, the Dutch Golden Age, Vermeer depicted many women in similar circumstances within interior, domestic scenes. The same woman also appears in The Love Letter and A Lady Writing a Letter.

<i>Mistress and Maid</i> 1666 painting by Johannes Vermeer

Mistress and Maid (c.1667) is a painting produced by Johannes Vermeer, now in the Frick Collection in New York City. The work of Johannes Vermeer, also known as Jan, is well known for many characteristics that are present in this painting. The use of yellow and blue, female models, and domestic scenes are all signatures of Vermeer. This oil on canvas portrays two women, a Mistress and her Maid, as they look over the Mistress' love letter.

<i>Girl with a Flute</i> painting attributed to Johannes Vermeer

Girl with a Flute is a small painting attributed to the Dutch Golden Age painter Johannes Vermeer, executed 1665–1670. The work is in possession of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., just as Woman Holding a Balance, A Lady Writing a Letter and Girl with a Red Hat.


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Further reading