HALLMARK HALL of FAME BRUSH
Premieres Sunday, Feb. 2, 9-11
on the CBS network
Glenn Close examines the mysterious painting from the past
The hidden story behind
an unknown masterpiece
By RON MILLER
For the 215th presentation in its long, hallowed history, Hallmark Hall of Fame has come up with one of its most expensive, most unusual and most mysterious productions: "Brush with Fate," the film version of Susan Vreeland's novel "The Girl in Hyacinth Blue."
Vreeland's fascinating story supposes that a "lost" art masterpiece suddenly surfaces--one that not even the most savvy art experts even knew existed: A haunting painting called "The Girl in Hyacinth Blue," painted by 17th century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer.
The discovery of this masterpiece is made by a newly-arrived teacher (Thomas Gibson) at a small private school in present-day America when he's invited to view something truly special at the home of another teacher, the eccentric and bizarre Cornelia (Glenn Close), a weird woman who lives with her elderly and uncommunicative father, an immigrant from Germany.
When the new teacher immediately challenges the possibility that this painting of a young girl looking out a window could possibly be a priceless Vermeer, Cornelia begins producing the stacks of files that verify its authenticity--and telling the story of how this amazing work was created and why it has remained unknown for three centuries.
Like the peeling of an onion, layer by layer, the movie unfolds the story of "The Girl in Hyacinth Blue," moving back through time until we actually come to the moment when Vermeer picks up his brushes and begins to paint the girl, who happens to be his own daughter.
The story is a necklace of tragedies, each one more profound than the one before it. The tales of the people who owned, held or briefly possessed the masterpiece are filled with passion, pain and anguish--covering a vast canvas of time that includes the Holocaust and the time of great floods when the dikes gave way in 17th century Holland. The film crews literally spanned the globe, seeking out authentic locations to serve as the background for the story.
From left, the players include Thomas Gibson, Oscar-winner Ellen Burstyn and
Roelant Rodier as Johannes Vermeer
In the large ensemble cast, which includes Oscar-winner Ellen Burstyn, the standout is Emmy-winner Glenn Close, whose mysterious Cornelia is a twisted, neurotic spinster, turned into a frightened and inhibited creature by the secret she's been carrying for most of her life.
But the most poignant scenes are those involving the tragic daughter of Vermeer, Magdalena (Laurien van den Broeck), whose enigmatic gaze out the window gives the painting its haunted quality--making us wonder what that look signifies. It's a mystery that ultimately is revealed as Cornelia spins her yarn for the man she has chosen to share her secret.
Magdalena (Laurien van den Broeck)
poses for the mysterios painting.
Vreeland's novel, which she wrote while undergoing chemotherapy for lymphoma, was a publishing phenomenon that took everyone by surprise, including Vreeland. Because it has such an episodic structure, Hallmark took twice as long in production as it usually does for its TV movies, resulting in roughly double the normal cost. The result is a rare sort of film for a commercial TV network--one that might otherwise have been an independent feature film for theaters from an "art house" distributor like Miramax.
At a time when quality made-for-TV movies are now as rare as lost Vermeers, it's a treasure that discerning viewers should be sure to mark on their viewing calendars.
©2003 by Ron Miller. The photos are used courtesy of Hallmark, Inc.
You can comment on this column online. Please address your message to either "The Editors" or Ron Miller. To send an email, click here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Home About Us Archives Talkback Shopping Mall