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  • Writer's pictureJames Rutherford

'The Red Violin': The Beguiling Tale of an Antique Violin's Extraordinary 300-Year Existence

Movie poster for the film The Red Violin starring Samuel L. Jackson

"The Red Violin" ("Le Violon Rouge") (1998) is the elegant and enthralling tale of a mysterious red-colored violin, as it progresses from owner-to-owner over the course of three centuries. First crafted in the northern Italian city of Cremona in 1681, the titular instrument ultimately arrives in Montreal in 1997, the target of obsession by professional appraiser Charles Morritz (Samuel L. Jackson).

Originally assembled by renowned luthier Nicolò Bussotti (Carlo Cecchi) as his wife Anna (Irene Grazioli) prepares for childbirth, the violin's future is foretold via Tarot Cards by young servant Cesca (Anita Laurenzi)—her readings serving as the framework for five distinct chapters in the existence of the prized instrument. Traversing the globe, from Austria in the late 1800's to England a full century later, subsequently arriving in China circa 1960 and later to modern-day (1990's) Montreal, the violin visits upon many striking moments in world history while serving as the harbinger of both fortuity and devastation.

Co-written and directed by French-Canadian filmmaker François Girard, "The Red Violin" is an expansive tale of passion and yearning. Steeped in displays of intrigue and often dark turns of fate, the film creates a striking mosaic of human emotion and the often-inextricable pursuit of perfection. A lesser-heralded sleeper film upon release in 1998, it's a sublime and revealing tale primed for rediscovery.


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