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Scott Ventura >> Movie Commentary >> September 1999 >> The Red Violin

The Red Violin

Movie Commentary by Scott Ventura


Scott's Rating:
3 / 5
Times Seen:
Viewing Date:
September 1999
IMDB Name:
Red Violin, The (1998)
François Girard
drama, foreign-language
MPAA Rating:
R for some sexuality.

An Instrument

Near the beginning of The Red Violin, I had chills several times from the beauty of the music of the title instrument. Joshua Bell plays the score with an intensity that can get even me excited about a violin. Back in the day, I was a trumpet player, for crying out loud, and it's rare that a string instrument higher than a cello bends my ear significantly.

In almost every movie that features musical characters, the semi-trained eye knows quickly that the actors have no idea what they are doing with the instrument in their hands. I was quickly surprised that the actors here really looked like they were playing the instrument instead of holding it and going through the motions. Even the young Christoph Koncz looked like he was playing at the slower tempos. Bell apparently also served as a body double for Jason Flemyng to make Frederick Pope a more realistic player. This kind of attention to detail really sold the beginning of the movie. I have been informed by a cellist that although the actors were much better than most at their fakery, it was still obvious that they were not playing.


For as thrilling as the musicality at the beginning of this delicately woven tale was, I expected it to remain at the forefront of the story. About the time the plot shifted away from gifted performers and towards the violin's identity as a forbidden instrument of Western influence in China, I started to lose interest. The analysis of the instrument by modern appraisers didn't help, either. I did appreciate the clever interspersing of the fortune- telling in Cremona with the auction in Canada and the individual stories, but the most captivating thing about the instrument languished far too long to sustain my attention. No amount of country hopping or language switching were enough to keep me riveted.

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Copyright 1999-2001 by Scott Ventura. All rights reserved.