Scarlett Johansson plays Griet, a young girl who enters into service in the home of painterJohannes Vermeer (Colin Firth). She catches his eye, partly because of her beauty, but even morebecause she has an intuitive understanding of art, and he takes her under his wing, much to thegrowing suspicions and jealousies of his wife. Ultimately, she becomes the model for theeponymous painting.
This is a film of looks and silences. In many ways, the story is constructed bet…een the linesof dialogue, and between the shots. The cast doesn’t have too much to do: Colin Firth does hisusual pained and brooding look, while Johansson stares at the ground a lot and parts her lips (sheis a startling incarnation of the painting’s subject, however). The exception is Essie Davis asVermeer’s wife, whose agony at the revelation of the painting is etched alarmingly into herforehead. What the film concerns itself with instead is the small gestures — between characters,in the mixing of paint, in the act of painting itself. The cinematography is sumptuous, lookingfor all the world like a Dutch art from the era sprung to life.
As I mentioned, silence plays a huge role in the film, and this silence is perfectly clean — nohiss or background noise. When there is sound, it is clean and very effective. Scenes in themarketplace (for instance) have terrific environmental effects, with great separation between therear left and right speakers. The rear speakers also come into their own for the muffled sound ofoff-screen arguments. The score also sounds terrific, with particularly nice sub-woofer use ofthe double bass.
The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is blessed by wonderful colours, the paletteranging from cold and wintry to candlelit warmth, depending on the look being recreated. Thebig problem, however, is how grainy the picture is. The grain is very noticeable, and at timesdisrupts the sharpness of the image enough to make the picture look murkier than it really is.There are also some speckles now and then, and the layer transition is extremely clumsy.
Very few extras: a music video inspired by the film, but featuring music that (blessedly)doesn’t show up in the movie itself; and an “Anatomy of a Scene” episode. This extra is partpromotional featurette, part detailed look at the birth/unveiling dinner sequence. Selecting theLions Gate logo triggers an ad for the soundtrack. The menu is animated but silent.
A great movie to look at, even if the transfer doesn’t quite do it justice.
Special Features List
- Anatomy of a Scene
- Music Video