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Last Updated: Friday, 16 January, 2004, 11:40 GMT
Review: Girl with a Pearl Earring

By Caroline Westbrook
BBC News Online entertainment staff

Scarlett Johansson
Scarlett Johansson stars as Vermeer's muse

Girl With a Pearl Earring, starring Colin Firth and Scarlett Johansson, has been critically acclaimed.

Following on from Lost In Translation, actress Scarlett Johansson plays a very different kind of character in Girl With A Pearl Earring, based on the best-seller by Tracy Chevalier.

This time around she is Griet, a 17th Century Dutch girl who is forced to go and work as a maid after an accident leaves her father blind and unable to support the family.

Her new boss is the painter Vermeer (Colin Firth) and after she lands the job of cleaning his art studio he begins to take more than a cursory interest in her.

She eventually becomes his muse and the model for one of his most famous paintings - but things are complicated by his permanently pregnant, highly-strung wife Catharina (Essie Davis), who is none too pleased with the arrangement.

Like Lost In Translation, the focus of the film is on the platonic relationship between an older man and a much younger woman - one which continually threatens to spill over into something deeper.

Beautiful cinematography

Johansson has been nominated for a Golden Globe for both films - and it is easy to see why - she is superb here, in a role which gives her just a handful of dialogue.

Firth, complete with long hair and big shirts, is also excellent, while beautiful cinematography and a haunting soundtrack add to the overall effect.

However, those who read Chevalier's book may be disappointed by the under-use of important supporting characters and an ending which has been changed from the original, losing one of the most important plot points in the process and feeling inconclusive as a result.

It is a noticeable let-down in what is otherwise a visually stunning treat, one which offers another welcome chance to see one of the best new actresses around.

Have you seen this film? Send us your views on the form below.

I was privileged to see this fine film at a Screen Actors Guild screening which included a post screening "conversations" with Scarlet Johansson and Colin Firth. They are as beautiful in person as they appear onscreen and both gave very insightful and intelligent comments about their work and the film.

The film is filled with scenes that echo the original artwork of Vermeer, a Dutch artist. It was also interesting to learn of the process of creating a painting in that time. The cinematography is exquisite! The cast is filled with excellent actors who bring that era and this interesting, though fictional, story to life. Every role is perfectly cast.

I learned a lot about people's lives in that era. I also learned a lot about Vermeer's paintings and how his work supported his family. It was sad to see how poorly lower class women were treated in this era. The pace of the film is unhurried but I was never bored. I would recommend this film. It has many things to say. See i t.
Michael, Los Angeles, California, United States

The movie made me revisit Vermeer and his works. Virtually nothing is known of his life, but there are tantalising clues in the iconography of his paintings regarding his Catholic faith, love of his family and acute human observations of folly and innocence. This beautiful film gave me a new appreciation for Vermeer's luminous work. But, I have to know, because of some of the comments, what IS the ending in the novel? Thanks!
Maxine Morris, Cupertino, USA

Beautiful film - all scenes shot like a Vermeer painting. Scarlett Johansson was luminous; Judy Parfitt was also very strong. However, the film was disappointing very two dimensional - the characters needed to be more fleshed out, it was a strong cast and beautifully filmed but very very weak.
Charlotte, London, England

I saw this lovely movie in october at the Dinard festival and this is one of the best film I have ever seen in this kind of story with "the Governess" in 1998. Do you remenber this film? Two "chefs d'oeuvre" in the British cinematography.
Patrice Bouteiller, Paris France

A stunning film with beautiful colour. Scarlet was just as stunning in her portrayal. An emotional film that is well worth seeing again.
Nigel Moppett, Southampton, England

Not often is the film better than the book as is the case here; the only interesting thing about the book is the plot. The film strengthened and enhanced every aspect of the book. Scarlett Johanssen was great while Colin Firth brought all of his considerable talent to the pivotal understated role. If Scarlett was a 10, Colin was a 15 on a scale of 1-10. Perfect film from an imperfect book.
GC Georgalas, Clifton, NJ, USA

It is one of the most stunning films that I have ever seen. It's like watching a Dutch painting for two hours. Not having read the book I was not disappointed at all. I would count it one of the best films that I have ever seen and I plan to tell the studio so. It is delicious...a rare treat.
Georgia Coalson,

May I be down-right shallow here? Colin Firth is broodingly gorgeous in this film! He looks like a circa-1975 Jeff Lynne. Beautiful cinematography; story is still good despite differences in the book.
Joanie Alford, North Carolina USA

I saw this movie two nights ago and I was stunned. Aside from being one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen, I found the story captivating and Scarlett Johansson was just brilliant. She says little but her face conveys every emotion - a real breakthrough performance. Go and see it!
David, Los Angeles USA

This is a film of absolute genius and sensitivity. Made me want to run out and pick up some paint and an easel.
vex dekster, Los Angeles

I saw this film last weekend, and I was pleasantly surprised as I'm not much into "period drama". I thought Johansson was amazing, and having seen this and Lost In Translation in the same weekend I can only say she is a talent worth keeping an eye on. I haven't read the book, but I agree that the ending in the film seemed a little odd - it just seemed to stop suddenly. But the rest of the film - wow! So intense, so little dialogue, and so engrossing. Colin Firth didn't look bad sporting long locks either...
Amanda, Newcastle-upon-Tyne

I loved this book and couldn't wait to see the film. When I heard the casting I was even more excited. Unfortunately, I was disappointed with the final product. The screenplay edited out very crucial points to the story, and the film would be better if the characters were more fleshed out. Mr Firth and Ms Johansson are such wonderful actors and they did quite well with what was given to them. I can't help but wonder what would have been created if the actors were allowed to work with the original story. I will agree that visually the film is stunning and Vermeer's studio is amazing. For those who not read the novel, my observations may not hold merit. Bottom line is the movie is a little above average - and again it pains me to say this!
Annette Lecinski, wilmette, Illinois USA

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