The Red Violin (Le Violon Rouge) is only one of a few films that a has a unique filming technique. For a film portraying the life and history of a violin, it is no mere object of wood and string, but our main character.
Director Francois Girard (known for “Silk” and a series on renown cellist Yo-Yo Ma) gives the violin just as much character development and attention as he would a main character, and similar to a character, we see the violin change with each player, performance, ownership and journey
The story is told from the perspective of several different characters; the first is the servant of the violins’ creator, who, through the use of Tarot Cards, predicts the future of the violin. The second perspective, and more modern, takes place during an auction involving people whom have had a past history with the instrument.
The second perspective also ties into the sub-plot involving Samuel L. Jackson’s role as Charles Moritz, an antique violin expert. Although specializing in the Stradivarius string instruments, he has always been searching for the true “Red Violin.”
The film opens in Italy with the creation of the violin. Crafted by Nicolo Bussotti and planned to be given to his unborn son, the violin was like no other. Although the instrument was considered perfect by Bussotti, with the death of his young wife and child during the birth, Bussotti donates the violin to a German monastery.
It is at this monastery where we see some of its beginning history. One of the children, who shows exceptional playing talent, takes unusual liking to the instrument. Apart from the young child, Kaspar Weiss (played by Christoph Koncz), much of film shows its bouncing around from various characters; Weiss in Vienna, a lusty Englishman, Frederick Pope (played by Jason Flemyng of “Snatch“) and all the way to Mao’s Communist China. Upon its arrival to china, with the recent ban of western culture, it almost faced incineration, however made its way to a dealer in Montreal.
Throughout the middle portion of the story, we get a full introduction to the character of Charles Morritz (played by Samuel L. Jackson) who is a violin expert and for years has been trying to find the actual “Red Violin”. With it in his reach, he is faced with the difficulty of parting from its mesmerizing beauty, history, perfection and memory. Much of the hypnotizing beauty behind this violin lies in its many dark secrets; once a present for Bussotti’s unborn child, it eventually turned into a memorial for his wife.
Using her blood, mixed the varnish, Bussotti pours all the love for his wife into this creation. And 400 hundred years later, after landing in the hands of Morritz who is forced to see it sit on some collectors shelf, does he struggle with the idea of losing.
Not only is the music, performed by the great Joshua Bell, stunning but the story is one that keeps you thinking. Not only do the intentions of Morritz’s character keep you thinking but the amazing journey of this violin and how it was admired, lusted over, saved from destruction, stolen and the product of intense greed.
For classical music lovers, not only did this film steal an Academy Award for Best Soundtrack, but it also features the gorgeous piece, “O Richard! O mon Roi!” from “Richard Coeur de Lion” composed by André-Modeste Grétry. But music aside, the most unique aspect of this film is the fact that the violin is more of our main character rather than the actual characters. Since all the characters affect the violin in some way- it takes the role of the main character, which only adds to the excitement of the film.