Based on a famous book, BRUSH WITH FATE is a Hallmark Hall of Fame production about the revealing history behind the ownership of a painting by Vermeer. This story is captivating, with superb acting and direction and a strong moral theme.
Based on a famous book, BRUSH WITH FATE opens with the new art teacher Richard at a private school being introduced to the other teachers. He takes an interest in a bespectacled history teacher named Cornelia, played wonderfully by Glenn Close. She introduces him to her father who’s a quadriplegic and takes him inside their house to see a shrine she has constructed in front of a painting that she says is a forgotten Vermeer. Richard says this could be a forgery or by a student of Vermeer, so to prove that it is a Vermeer she has to have papers of ownership. She digs out lots of papers and starts to tell the story of the previous owners, working backwards from 1880 Holland to Vermeer himself.
Each one of these stories is superb in its production and the moral lessons it teaches.
In the first, an old Dutchman named Lorenz is infatuated with this Vermeer painting of a little girl in blue. His infatuation comes to a head when his wife confronts him about it, so he tells the story of his unrequited love during his teenage years. He had bought the Vermeer for a young lady who died tending to the health of her aunt.
That story leads to the story of the couple who sold it to the shop. They were a poor farm family whose farm was literally under water because the dykes had burst. During the crises of the flood, the wife is so infatuated with the Vermeer that she disobeys her husband secretly and refuses to sell it. Instead, she consumes all the seed potatoes until she is found out by her family.
That story leads to 1716. A young serving girl infatuated with the Vermeer works in the home of a Dutch slave trader. When the nephew visits, he strikes up an affair with her. She gives birth to two children, the baby girl she buries alive and is hanged for doing so. The boy takes the baby boy and the Vermeer and leaves them at the cottage of the farmer family in the previous story.
This takes the movie back to 1671 where an old woman bids at an auction on the Vermeer. Unknown to anyone attending the auction, she is Vermeer’s daughter and the girl in the painting.
The movie flashes back to Vermeer as a penniless artist. He trades his paintings for scraps of bread and is always begging his mother-in-law for money. He has sired several children in wedlock, causing his addled brother-in-law to fear that Vermeer is diluting the family fortune between all the children. One day Vermeer comes home to find the brother-in-law beating his sister, Vermeer’s wife, using a club with a nail sticking out of it, in order to try to abort her next baby. The brother-in-law is thrown into a private asylum.
Back to the present, Richard asks Cornelia where she got the Vermeer. Evidently it belonged to a Jewish family in Holland at the beginning of World War II. Cornelia’s father was a Nazi officer who confiscated the Vermeer and sent the family, including the little boy, off to the gas chambers. Richard is shocked that the father would have placed more value on the painting than the human beings.
This movie is captivating. The people mesmerized by the Vermeer are clearly Romantics. They put the ideal of art above food, shelter and even human life. Richard asks the questions that unlock the stories, “Isn’t human life worth more?” and what are the moral responsibilities of Cornelia’s father and the others. She condemns Richard for being a small-minded bourgeois when actually he’s just expressing the essence of biblical virtue: the commands to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
The accents in this movie are superb. Someone who had just been in Amsterdam walked into the screening room and said these people sound Dutch. The costumes are historically accurate. Brent Shields, the director, has an incredible eye for detail. The scripting is tight and intriguing, and the movie stars two of the best actresses alive today, Glenn Close and Ellen Burstyn.
Congratulations to Hallmark for doing such a wonderful television movie.
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SUMMARY: Based on a famous book, BRUSH WITH FATE is a Hallmark Hall of Fame production about the revealing history behind the ownership of a painting by Vermeer. This story is captivating, with superb acting and direction and a strong moral theme.
(C, BB, VV, A, D, M) Light Christian worldview with a strong moral theme that refutes Romanticism; no foul language; several intense violent scenes including woman buries her baby, woman is hung for murdering her baby, man beats a pregnant woman with a stick with a nail sticking out of it, people almost drown when a dyke breaks, family is on the verge of starvation; upper male nudity when men try to repair dyke; alcohol use; smoking; and, people become infatuated with a work of art, lying, coveting, and stealing.