26 March 2009 | robert-temple-1
Following the Trail of a Lost Vermeer
This is a fascinating film by Brent Shields which, although made for television, was largely shot on location in the Netherlands and must have had a substantial budget for a TV movie. The production values are very high, with excellent sets and costumes and wonderful old Dutch buildings used to great effect. The film has two spectacular performances, one by the amazing Glen Close, as you have never seen her before, and the other by the brilliant young British actress Kelly Macdonald, who was such a strong presence in the British TV series 'State of Play' and in various films since. There are many other fine performances as well, a number of them by Dutch actors unknown to those of us who do not wear clogs, eat pea soup, and pronounce strange vowels. The story is based upon the imagined existence of a lost Vermeer, which for the film was specially painted by a Dutch artist named Jonathan Janson, who succeeded admirably in imitating a Vermeer. The painting is of a girl wrapped in a cloak of hyacinth blue and sitting in the usual Vermeer room by window light. The film investigates the history of the painting through the centuries, in the manner of the famous film which follows the history of a violin, 'The Red Violin'. 'Brush with Fate' is rather a weak title, and must have depressed the DVD sales a lot. This film is really very charming and entrancing in many respects. There are some amazing twists in the story, which is a series of strange tales going back further and further in time until we discover who the girl was in the painting and have a lot of Vermeer himself in the story. The 'topper' in terms of plot twists is the extraordinary revelation at the ending. Anyone willing to sit through a film in which no one gets killed by machine guns, in which helicopters do not crash through skyscraper windows, in which people are not always pulling their clothes off so that the director can get excited, and who have some interest in art, would find this film interesting. It is also a very wonderful glimpse of the Netherlands of the past, and we see much more of it here than we do in 'Girl with the Pearl Earring'. Also, the film should be treasured as one of Glen Close's most bizarre roles, which she pulls off with true genius, and hence is a gem for those serious about great acting. As for Kelly Macdonald, she acts circles round everybody but Glen Close, and shows such fire and character that she sets the screen alight.