robin and steven: valentines since 1968
a large part of my life

oscar run ix: girl with a pearl earring (peter webber, 2003)

Leaving the theater after watching Girl With a Pearl Earring, I overheard someone saying they were glad they'd read the book, because otherwise they wouldn't have known what was going on in the movie. Not having read the book, I can only say I think I knew what was going on just fine. It's a fairly straightforward movie about people in a time when to be straightforward was apparently forbidden. Everything in the movie is sublimated, and the film itself wears its low-key aura as if it expected an award for authenticity. Indeed, the movie is nominated for three Oscars, all of which are about the reproduction of Vermeer's time and place (art direction, cinematography, costume design). Beware a movie that gets many nominations, but none for best picture, or direction, or writing, or acting.

The above is too harsh on Girl With a Pearl Earring, which is slow-moving but not boring, low-key but not without points to be made, and which gets the job done in 95 minutes. Fine actors like Colin Firth and Scarlett Johansson give themselves over to the director's vision, meaning that Firth plays Vermeer as a man given to pregnant silences and meaningful stares, while Johansson plays the titular Girl as a young woman given to know-your-place silences and meaningful stares. Both actors have been seen to better advantage elsewhere, but they fit properly into this film, and the look of the film is indeed Oscar-worthy.


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