For 260MC module we had a task to recreate a particular painting. Given painting was “Girl reading a Letter ar an Open Window” (1657 by Johannes Varmeer)
research about painting
Johannes Vermeer was a dutch painter, who was representing middle-class life scenes in his paintings.Vermeer was a moderately successful provincial genre painter in his lifetime. He was born in 1632 and died in 1675 (age 45). After he died, he left his wife and kids in debt, perhaps because he produced relatively few paintings. Probably his most famous piece of work was “Girl with A Pearl Earing”
“Girl reading a letter at an open window” : On the first look at this painting, you can see a young girl reading a letter. Light through the window touches her faces and leaves the reflection of her face in the window. There are nor so many painters that achieve this kind of intimacy. The girl is indifferent to the rest of the world, and the emotion she shows I think is quite amazing. She seems as rejecting the world, the room, the house, even herself. She just reads a letter. A letter that maybe she has been expecting long time ago.
The reflection of the girl in the window emphasises the importance of the letter, which becomes the psychological axis of the painting. As in other works by Vermeer, the chair acts to clarify the spatial relations between the elements in the room, in this case, the table and the end wall. Basket of apples symbolises betrayal, treason.
Finding a location was a real challenge because we were searching for the room that has a window which opens inside. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a place that has a window like that,so we went to the Dome (in Ellen Terry’s building) and we found a small commode that has glass doors. We tried a few set-ups and decided that we can use the commode doors as a window. It took us 3 days to set-up everything just like in the painting.
As you can see in the picture, there are 2 light sources: One from the window and another one on the wall and curtains. We went to the shooting place 3 times before shooting, because we couldn’t set-up lights like we wanted. We changed lights positions, heights, intensity of the light until we would the right lights set-up. For the window light, we needed to take off the back of the commode so we can put the light behind it. We used LED light because it created natural daylight. For the bigger light on the curtains and wall, we used “Blonde” light. When we filmed the first scene, we used LED lights with pink and red gels, because it represents passion and love. For night scene we chose blue and purple coroul gels.
We did a small experiment and tried to film in vertical camera position – happily, it worked very well and it helped to recreate actual painting even more. In the frame, we don’t have cornice of curtains, because our cornice was totally different from the one in the painting, but we found very similar curtain. For costiumes, we went to the University Theather and they were happy to help us. I think costumes improved our film a lot.
The girl is having a passionate moment with her paramour, she hears someone knocking the door. Her lover jumps through the window and hides himself under the bed. Woman acts like nothing happened. Next morning, when she wakes up she finds a bowl of apples and a letter from her husband, because he knew her secret for a long time.
I was a director and cinematographer of this project. On the first day, I did a research and wrote a script. After, we discussed everything with the group and started to search for the location. Next week, we found the actors, costumes and started the shooting. I wrote a blog post about that; day-by-day where you can see how our set-up and lights were improved. I will link it below. The hardest part was to set-up the lights, because we needed so much patien. My group friends were very hard-working, it made the project successful.
Janson, J. (2000) Understanding A girl reading a letter by an open window by Johannes Vermeer. Available at: http://www.essentialvermeer.com/cat_about/open.html#.WEmIrpPtmko (Accessed: 6 December 2016).
Bibliography:Janson, J. (2000) Details of Vermeer’s painting technique: Girl reading a letter at an open window. Available at: http://www.essentialvermeer.com/details/details_open.html#.WEmK8ZPtmko (Accessed: 7 December 2016).