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Girl with a Pearl Earring (film)

Girl with a Pearl Earring is a 2003 United Kingdom/Luxembourg drama film directed by Peter Webber. The screenplay was adapted by screenwriter Olivia Hetreed based on the novel by Tracy Chevalier. The film stars Scarlett Johansson, Colin Firth, Tom Wilkinson and Cillian Murphy. The film is named after a painting of the same name by the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer.


Griet (Scarlett Johansson) is a young woman living in the Netherlands in the 1660s. Her father was a ceramic painter who has recently gone blind, rendering him unable to work and the family is in dire straits. Griet is subsequently sent to work as a maid in the home of the painter Johannes Vermeer (Colin Firth).

In the course of their interactions as master and servant, Vermeer and Griet become casually acquainted and he learns of her interest in painting and her knowledge of color and artistic composition. Vermeer subsequently begins giving her lessons in mixing paints and other tasks, taking care to keep their meetings secret from his wife Catharina (Essie Davis). On a routine trip outside the house, Griet also befriends a young man named Pieter (Cillian Murphy), the Vermeers' butcher's son, who is quickly taken with her, though she is slow to return his affections. Vermeer's patron van Ruijven (Tom Wilkinson) sees Griet on a visit to the Vermeer household and asks the painter if he will give her up to him to work in his own house. When Vermeer refuses, Van Ruijven commissions him to paint a portrait of Griet for him. Vermeer accepts the commission, both to remain in Van Ruijven's good graces and because of his own fascination with Griet.

As Vermeer secretly works on the eponymous painting, he and Griet grow closer, while his relationship with his wife declines. Griet suffers with her feelings towards Vermeer, and has to fend off Van Ruijven's attempt to rape her (which is thwarted when Catharina calls for Griet). After a painting session filled with unrequited sexual tension where Vermeer pierces Griet's earlobes so she can wear his wife's pearl earrings for the portrait, Griet runs to Pieter to make love. In the afterglow, Pieter proposes marriage, but she does not answer and leaves him with a kiss. Vermeer's daughter discovers Griet is modeling for the painting, and tells her mother. Filled with jealousy, Catharina demands to see the painting. Vermeer responds that she does not understand art like Griet does. Insulted at being considered more ignorant than a common servant, she orders Griet to leave their household. At the close of the film, the pearl earrings are mysteriously delivered to Griet who has moved back to her home. Unlike the novel, the audience is left wondering whether or not she marries Pieter.


Awards and Nominations




The soundtrack was released in 2004 and composed by Alexandre Desplat.

Differences between the novel and the film

  • In the novel, when Griet is attacked by van Ruijven, the one who stops him is Cornelia, Vermeer's daughter, by asking them what they were doing. While in the film, the one who stops the incident is Catharina, by calling out for Griet.
  • Griet's younger brother and sister are absent from the film.
  • Griet's friendship with Maertge, the Vermeers' oldest daughter, is not shown in the film.
  • Most of the events of the epilogue, such as Griet's marriage to Pieter, are absent from the film.
  • In the novel, van Leeuwenhoek warns Griet not to get too close to Vermeer, but he is absent from the film and his lines are given to Pieter.
  • In the novel, Griet pierces her own earlobes. In the film, Vermeer pierces it for her.
  • In the novel, Griet is given the pearl earrings ten years later, after Vermeer's death. In the film, it is implied that not much time has passed.


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