Reimagining an artist's life through his art
OPENS JANUARY 16, CERT 12A, 103 MINS
Watching this film is like spending the evening with a teenage supermodel. It’s so gorgeous to look at that it takes a while to realise there’s not a hell of a lot going on. Adapted from the novel by Tracy Chevalier, the film creates a fictitious history for the famous painting by Vermeer, set in the Dutch town of Delft in 1665, where Vermeer (Colin Firth, no less) lives and works. Scarlett Johansson plays the servant girl who attracts and inspires the artist?an intimacy that threatens to cause havoc in his already chaotic household. The town and Vermeer’s house are somewhat cleaner than they would have been in the 17th century, but they’re evocatively realised?it’s not so much a historically accurate rendering of the time as one that’s been filtered through Vermeer’s paintings. It’s a technique that has been used before, most notably in Vincente Minnelli’s Lust For Life, but the nature of Vermeer’s studied, claustrophobic portraits compared to the tortured exuberance of Van Gogh lends the film an inert, repressed feel.