Volume 92, Issue 46

Wednesday, November 25, 1998



Red violin sweetly strings history together

Gazette file photo

TELL ME, WHAT DO YOU USE TO MAKE YOUR HAIR SO WONDERFULLY CURLY? Greta Scacchi and Jason Flemying share an intimate moment in The Red Violin.

By Andrew Sparrow

Gazette Staff

The Red Violin
is the perfect example of a film Hollywood could never make. The complex tale, by Francois Girard (Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould), follows the nearly 400-year-old history of a legendary violin, from a workshop in Italy to an auction of rare violins in current day Montreal.

During its journey, the violin impacts the lives of all who own it as it passes from hand to hand, nearly possessing all who play it.

Although the movie is Canadian, it was shot in five different languages and in five different countries from various parts of the world, including Italy, Austria, England, China and Canada. This means there are subtitles throughout most of the film, but it genuinely adds more meaning to the stories of the characters. There exists a greater level of audience involvement in the characters' lives than if the film were solely spoken in English.

The most interesting feature of the film is the complex way in which the story is told. The wife of the violin maker has her Tarot cards read by their housekeeper and during this sequence the audience learns the fortune being told is actually that of the violin.

Girard uses a series of flash-forwards to recount the story of the violin to the audience. Interspersed with these segments are scenes from the violin auction in Montreal, where we gradually discover why the violin is so important to the bidders.

A series of segments follow, from the tale of a child prodigy in Austria to that of a master violinist in Oxford of 1893. The Byronesque English segment is the weakest point of an otherwise excellent plot, as it is hardly believable.

In present-day Montreal, violin expert Charles Morritz (Samuel L. Jackson) first suspects the violin's historical life and then sets out to prove it with a character played by actor Don McKellar, before the violin falls into unworthy hands.

Although these stories are all linked, they are done very tenuously. It is only through the Tarot card readings that the audience begins to see the threads which bind the stories.

The film's cinematography and set design are stunningly beautiful and transport the viewer to the various locales, while colour is used elegantly and sets the mood for the emotions and thoughts of the characters.

Throughout the film, the soundtrack is absolutely gorgeous, played by soloist Joshua Bell of the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

Ultimately, The Red Violin is a vast musical tale of immortality and passion which is truly music to the eyes and heart – and all for only $14 million. Hollywood should take some Canadian notes on budgeting.

To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department: gazette.entertainment@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998