Australian Council on Children and the Media

Girl with a Pearl Earring

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Short takes

Not recommended under 8, PG to 13 (Viol. Themes.)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Girl with a Pearl Earring
  • a review of Girl with a Pearl Earring completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 12 March 2004.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 While the level of scariness and violence is reasonably low, due to its content, this movie is not recommended to children under 8.
Children aged 8-13 Children 8 -13 would need parental guidance to view this movie.
Children over the age of 13 Children over the age of 13 might still need some guidance.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Girl with a Pearl Earring
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Adult themes, Sexual references
Length 100 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

In 1665 Holland, Griet is a young girl whose father is no longer able to work due to an accident that has left him blind and maimed. She is sent to work as a servant girl for the family of Johannes (Jan) Vermeer, a painter, with a wife Catharina, several children and an overseeing mother-in-law, Maria. Griet’s abode is in the cellar where she unpacks her few belongings. As part of her work Griet has to clean the master’s studio where she becomes intrigued by his paintings. She gradually develops a relationship with Jan in which they are connected by an understanding of the use of light and colour in his work. The relationship develops into one of simmering but unfulfilled desire of which Catharina and also one of the daughters, Cornelia, become aware. Cornelia tries to make life hard for Griet but Jan comes to her aid. Griet also develops a relationship with a local boy at the market, Pieter, who wants to marry her.

When money becomes tight in the Vermeer household, Maria, the mother-in-law, approaches the nasty Van Ruijven, to commission a painting. Van Ruijven is also attracted by Griet’s youth, and wanting to cause mischief, insists that Jan paint Griet on her own. Jan makes Griet take her bonnet off but she refuses to wear his wife’s pearl earrings. Maria, knowing the precarious financial situation they are in, obtains the earrings for Griet and insists she wears them. Griet allows Jan to pierce her ears and thus the famous painting becomes a reality.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including the following:

  • Cornelia tears Griet’s clothes.
  • Cornelia is whipped on the hand for stealing and laying the blame on Griet (only the whip is shown).
  • Van Ruijven tries to rape Griet; he drags her away while she is hanging out the washing, tears her clothes and attempts to force himself on her but is interrupted. Griet is left with bruising on the neck.
  • Jan pierces Griet’s ears with a tool.

 

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

There is some material that would scare children in this age group as well as the above violent scenes:

  • Life in 17th century Holland is very austere. The housing is dark and cold and lit by candles.
  • A family is shown being thrown out on the street.
  • Griet’s father’s hand is shown badly mutilated.
  • The market place is full of dead animals hanging upside down and pigs’ heads.
  • The mother-in-law is very severe looking and smokes a pipe.
  • Catharina gives birth which is not shown, but her screams are heard.
  • Griet has no control over her own life.

 

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by the scenes mentioned above.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group might still be disturbed by some of the above. However it could also be a useful learning experience for them, in respect of the changes in society over time and in particular the treatment of women and girls.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Most of the content of the movie would be ok for children over the age of 13. However, some adolescent girls could be disturbed by the attempted rape scene. Also, the fact that Griet has no control over her own life and can be used by her masters as they please, might be disturbing.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie:

  • There is an obvious sexual desire between Jan and Griet.
  • Jan tells Griet she’s not to sleep with Van Ruijven.

 

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some sexual activity in this movie:

  • Van Ruijven tries to rape Griet.
  • Pieter and Griet kiss passionately and a sexual encounter is implied (not shown).

 

Use of substances

Maria smokes a pipe.

Coarse language

There is a little coarse language including the use of ‘My God’ a couple of times. Van Ruijven says that Vermeer glazed his wife in dried piss.

In a nutshell

The take home message from the movie is that life in the 17th century was very hard particularly if one had no money and had to work as a servant.

Values parents may wish to encourage include:

  • an appreciation of art
  • endurance through adversity

Values parents may wish to avoid include:

  • using one’s position to disadvantage another person
  • spitefulness
  • connivance

 

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