We watched Girl With A Pearl Earring last night on IFC. I had previously read a review of the book by Tracy Chevalier and so was somewhat familiar with the story, but I was unaware that a movie had been made (in 2003).
This movie really drew me in, appealing equally to my interests in history, in art, and in imaginative storytelling. Anyone interested in fine art would find this movie enjoyable, I think. The award-winning cinematography is superb, the directing very artfully done. Many scenes in the movie actually look like paintings by Vermeer or Rembrant. The musical score is also very good. Always complimentary, never overshadowing the other elements, subtle and beautiful.
The acting was pretty good, especially that of Scarlett Johansson, who really does bear more than a passing resemblence to the young woman in the painting. Colin Firth's performance is not especially broad, but the movie didn't really require much. As Johannes Vermeer, his job was to play a brilliant, moody, and harrassed painter, which he did sufficiently. Most of the supporting roles were good, if not great. Tom Wilkinson was convincingly lecherous and despicable. Vermeer's wife, Catharina, played by Essie Davis was a difficult role. I wanted to feel sympathy for her actually, but there was just a bit too much whining and shrieking, not entirely uncalled for, but still.
Part of what appeals to me so much about this story relates to my previous post, actually, about my fascination with old photographs. What the author and filmakers have done in Girl With A Pearl Earring is give the backstory that I always look for in the antique photos. And it is a compelling and richly drawn story - never mind that it is fiction - it puts a stunningly beautiful work of art into a context drawn from the possibilites of life.
I intend to read the book now, of course, and I expect it will be even better than the movie. Tracy Chevalier has a wonderful suite of linked websites, designed by her sister, one for each of her novels. Each is very creatively done, different, and interesting; I encourage you to visit them. They will make you want to read her books to be sure. For those interested in the "writing life", she includes biographical info and some generous insight on her own creative processes.