Johannes Vermeer produced less than 40 paintings in his lifetime, living from 1632 to 1675. The
Dutch painter's life is mostly blank, with only bits and pieces known about him. However, his
paintings are quite the legacy to his name. Modern painters such as Salvador Dali admired his work,
even to the point of Dali inserting or copying elements. A film was produced several years ago based
on the making of his "Girl with a Pearl Earring" painting.
I find Vermeer's work to be fascinating, especially for the time period. His extreme care in his
images ranges from putting tiny details such as shadows on a nail on the wall, reflections in glass,
or even including his easel in a mirror. His use of color was stunning, such as painting with
expensive pigments or including texture within the paint. There is also his inspiration from the
camera obscura, which explains the careful perspective within paintings.
Vermeer: Master of Light provides a critical look at Vermeer's work, as well as
deconstruction on several of his painting. Even with considerably padding - it takes five minutes to
get to actual material on his paintings - it's a good introduction. Meryl Streep narrates the
documentary, making her pleasing voice complementing the sometimes dry presentation.
To get the negative aspects out of the way, the padding can be distracting. This would have been
fine as a 30-minute special, but endless stock footage of sunrises and sunsets over Delft become
tiresome. Alright, we get the idea that Vermeer was inspired by these views. Some of the interviews
are bit heavy in overanalysis. Some of Vermeer's paintings had changes later in his process, while
leaving oddities. In "The Music Lesson" the reflection in a mirror does not show the correct
perspective, but a scholar attributes it to "control over reality." I'm probably wrong, but it seems
like an error.
However, this documentary has some brilliant deconstructions of his best paintings. Figures are
isolated from backgrounds, layers are added bit by bit, perspectives are pointed out, and details
are enlarged. This is shown via somewhat cheesy CGI wireframe, but it does provide a keen look at
the painting process. The outstanding quality of his work speaks for itself.
I would imagine this documentary would work well as a screening in a school/college art class and at
least worth seeing once.
Presented in 1.85:1 letterboxed widescreen, this video-based transfer is also interlaced. Quality is
good enough, but the many uses of "Ken Burns" styled zooms tend to suffer from jaggies. This would
have been a prime documentary to shoot in HD, if just to allow for increased resolution on the
One stereo audio track is provided. The narration and interviews are a bit flat and mono-based, but
the cheesy synthesizer score has clear stereo separation. The bitrate is standard 192kbps. It suits
the presentation, even if nothing special.
No extras are included at all. Not that this would warrant any, but an image gallery of Vermeer's
paintings would have been nice.
Overall, this is a decent documentary, but not necessarily purchasing outside of educational use.
"The Flickering Window"