“Pearl Earring” is CFS’ latest gem on film

Diana Luzzi

For centuries, paintings have been used to represent people, and viewers have been fascinated by their expressions of human complexity. But few give rise to full-length films. The film “The Girl With a Pearl Earring” is based on a well-known 1665 painting by Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer. Scarlett Johansson is exquisite in her portrayal of the main character, the sole figure in the painting, supposedly a young servant. She completely embodies the role and makes the story utterly believable. This film is spectacular in its ability to take a still picture of a girl and construct a story and a whole life out of it.

The girl in the painting is given the name Greit in the film. She comes to life as a 17-year-old maid in Vermeer’s household. Vermeer is prompted to paint Greit by his wealthy patron, and in the process of painting, Vermeer gets to know Greit and becomes entranced by her own artistic side. Greit is the only one in Vermeer’s bourgeois household who appreciates his work. As time goes by, their relationship grows.

A sexual tension between Vermeer and Greit begins to arise, and Vermeer’s wife is not blind to this attraction. When Vermeer’s mother-in-law realizes that Vermeer needs to sell paintings to maintain the family’s wealthy lifestyle, she allows Greit to borrow Vermeer’s wife’s favorite pearl earrings while posing for the painting. This brings all of the actions and tensions to a surface and an eruption ensues.

Peter Webber, in his debut as a director of feature films, “paints” the film just as Vermeer would have painted a portrait. He replicates Vermeer’s lighting and color schemes, and this adds to the authenticity of the art form.

The final offering in Villanova’s current Cultural Film & Lecture Series, “Loss of Innocence/Growth of Awareness,” this film will be shown four times in the Connelly Center Cinema: Saturday, April 23 at 7 p.m., Sunday, April 24 at 3:30 and 7 p.m. and Monday, April 25 at 7 p.m. Admission is $3.50 for students with I.D. and $5 for all others. The Monday evening showing only will feature Arlene Sciole as the guest speaker. Sciole will introduce the film and lead a discussion, “Dutch Treat,” afterward.