Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Red Violin

A universal yearning for beauty and perfection underpins The Red Violin, Francois Girard's ambitious, lyrical drama following the passage of a meticulously crafted violin from owner to owner. We see the instrument's painstaking creation in 1681 by master artisan Nicolo Bussotti (Carlo Cecchi), who intends it for his unborn son. Over a period of 300 years the violin acquires innumerable owners, traveling from rich to poor, from country to country, but always producing the same achingly beautiful music for those who most appreciate it. Bussotti's violin becomes legendary, and eventually comes under the covetous eye of connoisseur Charles Morritz (Samuel L. Jackson) in a surprisingly suspenseful climax. Girard uses the violin as a narrative device to link his vignettes, which offer trenchant observations on love, music, culture, politics, poverty, crime, and even death.

I originally saw this film in one of those "artsy" single-screen theaters with an adjoining cafe that tend to be sparsely populated by book carrying patrons familiar with the origins of the country known as Freedonia. I was very impressed with the film and, after the movie reached a certain prominence and was given a larger general release, ended up seeing it twice more. I have owned a copy since it was released on DVD and it has become one of those films that I often play in order to have something nice to listen to as I perform domestic tasks around the house, only to invariably end up perched on the sofa, completely focused on the story and accomplishing nothing that I set out to.

Being a fan of the violin and/or classical composition can broaden the appreciation of the movie, but is by no means a prerequisite for enjoyment. The story is very well told and superbly acted as it covers over 300 years and 5 countries in the travels of the violin. Each segment contains wonderful characters from different time periods which are all bound together by the violin and balanced perfectly by flashes to the present where Samuel L. Jackson deciphers the identity of the violin and eventually takes us to a worthy climax. In case you are a fan of the violin and the music used in the film, Joshua Bell was the solo artist and, if you're familiar with him, you can spot him as one of the musicians during the Oxford segment in which the character Frederick Pope is performing.

This DVD may be off the beaten path for most people but anyone professing to enjoy a well told tale, including a few unexpected twists, with flashes of a bigger, spiritual picture while surrounded by precise and beautiful cinematography should not pass on the opportunity to see and enjoy this movie. At least, that's what I think.


Kapil said...

Hey... Any idea where I can find / download the music you said was played by Joshua Bell In Harry Potter and the Order ofthe Phoenix. I have been looking to download that piece of music... But just can't seem to find it anywhere.

John Taylor said...

I don't recall stating a connection between Joshua Bell and the harry Potter film. Sorry.