movie trailer (apple.com - quicktime)
NOTE: This spoiler was sent in by Jediwiseguy who says... "This was really a wonderful film with some of the most beautiful cinematography I have ever seen. Scarlett Johansson outdoes herself and certainly deserved an Oscar nomination. The good, but modest, three nominations for Costume, Art Direction, and Cinematography Girl with a Pearl Earring managed to snatch are well deserved. One of the best pictures of 2003! This is not a story driven, but more of a character and an emotion driven film, so it is a little difficult to recall in the exact order. But here goes."
The film, set in Holland, opens with Griet (a perfect performance by the lovely Scarlett Johansson) neatly slicing vegetables in her tiny Delft home. The light gracefully shines on her face, expressing not only the beauty of the film but of Ms. Johansson herself. Her family is poverty stricken, her father is blind from accidents in a tile kiln. He is an artist, but cannot support for his family. Griet is prepared to become a maid to support them. The credits roll as she takes the short journey to the Vermeer home.
Another maid in the household, Tanneke (Joanna Scanlan) waits for Griet's arrival, and quickly introduces her to the house and the numerous tasks required to please the family, most likely a very fussy group. However, one of these duties includes cleaning the studio of Johannes Vermeer (Colin Firth), the patriarch of the family and an artist who is not well known in his day. Griet is quite hesitant about doing this, but must be passive.
Eventually, Griet becomes quite familiar with the rest of the family, which includes Catharina (played with surprising brilliance by Essie Davis), a jealous and obviously insecure woman who is not keen on sharing any romantic contact with her husband, despite his effortless attempts at it. Catharina is always pregnant, complicating things for the already busy Griet, who can do nothing but respond to her masters' orders. Maria Thins (Judy Parfitt) is Johannes' mother-in-law, a grounded woman who takes an interest only in the family's financial life. Cornelia (Alakina Mann) is a little monster on her own, always making things worse for poor Griet.
Tanneke and Griet travel to the local butcher's to get some meat for preparing dinner. The meat the butcher originally gives Griet is not fresh enough, so Griet, with an undeniable pickiness about her, refuses to accept it. The butcher's son Pieter (Cillian Murphy) is quite attracted to Griet.
Life at the Vermeer house becomes straining and difficult but nevertheless Griet as well as the other maids continue with the chores despite Catharina's constant pregnancy. However, life slowly starts to look up for the girl when she begins to enter the world of Johannes and his paintings. One day, as she cleans the windows in the studio, Johannes enters and sees a still beauty about Griet. He eventually begins to paint a picture of Griet cleaning the windows, using a model in a camera obscura (something that deeply fascinates the inquisitive Griet) which very soon escalates to something more and passionate in a silent way.
Pieter begins to court Griet, but warns her about Johannes and not to enter his world.
Griet is oblivious to this, for she is greatly excited and entranced by Johannes. She assists in mixing paints with him, and eventually moves up to the attic for some housing quarters to accommodate for the growing family. It is obvious that Catharina is quite upset by her husband's interest in Griet.
Van Rujiven (Tom Wilkinson) is Johannes Vermeer's commissioner and is immediately attracted to Griet. He commissions a painting of her for Vermeer, but only has his own lust in mind. As Griet tends to the sheets just outside of the Vermeer home, van Rujiven violently grabs her and throws her against a wall. He tries to rape her as Cornelia watches from the window, but Griet is summoned by Catharina and it ends there. Meanwhile, the relationship between Pieter and Griet escalates, as the two make love despite Pieter's suspicion of Griet's involvement with Vermeer.
Here is when things start to get interesting.
Johannes is very attracted to Griet because she seems to be the only one that understands his passion for art, and his cold wife does not. Johannes studies his wife as she puts on a pair of pearl earrings. He gets an idea. Maria Thins agrees with Johannes that they will paint Griet with a pearl earring. Griet objects to the plan, but the painter states that there is no other way for it to be complete. Maria gives the earrings to Griet, who is not pierced. Johannes pierces them for her, and in a beautiful scene, the camera focuses on Griet as he paints the beautiful picture of the girl with the parted lips and blue turban.
Scarlett Johansson looks so much like the girl in the painting that it is very eerie.
The painting is finished, and Cornelia, who was obviously snooping about, tells her mother the story. Catharina becomes furious and screams at her husband for not painting her. She orders Griet to be fired from the household, and nearly destroys the painting. Johannes stops her, and that is the end of Griet's life living with the two.
Later, after Griet is back home, Tanneke delivers a small pouch to her and leaves. Griet opens it, and inside are the two shiny, pearl earrings.