The Red Violin (1998)

In present day Montreal, a famous Nicolo Bussotti violin, known as “the red violin,” is being auctioned off. During the auction, we flash back to the creation of the violin in 17th century Italy, and follow the violin as it makes its way through an 18th century Austrian monastery, a violinist in 19th century Oxford, China during the Cultural Revolution, and back to Montreal, where a collector tries to establish the identity and the secrets of “the red violin.”

The movie is spoken in English, Italian, French, German, and Mandarin. This is an interesting movie, especially if you love violin, or better enough, play violin! ;-)

However, there’s no subtitle when I watched this, but I understood the story. Back in 1681 — Cremona, Nicolo Bussotti just finished his master work when his wife was pregnant. She told him that she felt that she wouldn’t live that long, but he was so optimist and said he had a good relatives that could help her. But she and their first child died at the time she was giving birth. Nicolo took her body to his workplace, cut her hair to make a brush out of it, cut her hand and poured her blood in a can and then he painted his violin with her blood.

CAST
Cremona

* Carlo Cecchi – Nicolo Bussotti
* Irene Grazioli – Anna Rudolfi Bussotti
* Anita Laurenzi – Cesca
* Samuele Amighetti – Boy

Vienna

* Christoph Koncz – Kaspar Weiss
* Jean-Luc Bideau – Georges Poussin
* Arthur Denberg – Prince Mansfeld

Oxford

* Jason Flemyng – Frederick Pope
* Greta Scacchi – Victoria Byrd
* Eva Marie Bryer – Sara
* Joshua Bell – Orchestra member: First violin (cameo)

Shanghai

* Sylvia Chang – Xiang Pei
* Hong Tao – Comrade Chan Gong
* Liu Zifeng – Chou Yuan

Montreal

* Samuel L. Jackson – Charles Morritz
* Colm Feore – Auctioneer
* Monique Mercure – Madame Leroux
* Don McKellar – Evan Williams
* Ireneusz Bogajewicz – Ruselsky
* Julian Richings – Nicolas Olsberg
* Marvin Mill – Limousine Driver
* Sandra Oh – Madame Ming, companion of Chinese son who was trying to win the auction of the red violin
* Rémy Girard – Customs Agent

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Personal review:
This movie is incredible! It made me think who have been the owners of my current violin, knowing that it’s made in 1890 and is obviously not new. There are flaws of use here and there. This movie inspired me to pick up my violin and play. I even paused it, took a break and played my violin for about half hour. I believe that there are ex-violinists who picked up their violins again after watching this movie.

I don’t like Frederick Pope (Flemyng). He’s ugly, but acted like he’s the most coolest and handsome guy! And sex is his inspiration and without it he couldn’t play violin passionately. I really pity that they’ve chosen that ugly Flemyng to be Frederick Pope.

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SPOILER ALERT! HAVEN’T WATCHED THE MOVIE? DON’T READ THE TEXTS BELOW!


This red violin has traveled to Vienna — Austria, being in the hand of a young prodigy named Kaspar Weiss, who died at his recital, then to Oxford, played by Frederick Pope, whose girlfriend, Victoria served as his fleshly muse on the day he’s going to have a concert, it inspired him to to come up with a new piece. After Victoria left to get her writing done in Russia, Frederick lost his inspiration and he cancelled all his concerts. When Victoria came back, she heard him playing passionately, she knew he’s getting his inspiration in someone else’s arms. With gun in hand, Victoria bursted into Frederick’s room to find him in the arms of a new muse, the female gypsy violinist. In a moment of rage, Victoria shot the violin, the bullet grazing and damaging the neck of the violin. The tail-piece and strings came loose as the red violin spin out of Pope’s hand. Victoria rushed out. The violin ended up in the hands of Frederick’s Chinese servant and he took it back to Shanghai where he sold it to an antiques dealer. The violin is repaired, but a small jewel is removed from the violin’s scroll work. It went on display in the shop for over three decades, before being sold to a young woman with her daughter, Xiang during the 1930s. And then, in the Chinese communist party era, under the regime of Mao Zedong, all foreign stuff were being burned. Xiang went to her home disposing all of the classical music she no longer could keep due to her loyalty to the state. She uncovered the red violin which was given by her mother. But at this time, her son Ming walked into her room and she explained him about the violin and even played a piece. She told him to not tell anyone else about its existence, but Xiang realised that this secret was in clumsy hands. Ming found his father, and inadvertently let slip of the existence of the violin. Xiang’s party went into her house, wanting to arrest her but she already escaped when they arrived. Xiang weng to Chou’s house, asking him to save her violin, but Chou refused because he thought it’s her trick to get him arrested. But Chou finally accepted her violin when Xiang threatened to destroy her violin in front of him.

The next scene showed a few years later when Chinese communist party has already been removed. A neighbor called police to come into Chou’s house. Chou is found dead and they discovered a lot of music instruments in his room. They sent them to Canada to be auctioned. Morritz (Samuel L. Jackson) arrived in Montreal as an appraiser for the violins sent by the government of China. He noticed the red violin and he had Evan Williams (McKellar) perform some work with it. To verify if it’s the real red violin, he sent some varnish samples to the lab at the University of Montreal. He also purchased a copy of this red violin from a private collection in London; the closest copy to the original available (apparently commissioned by Frederick Pope himself before his death). At the same time, a wealthy concert violinist named Ruselsky (Bogajewicz) samples some of the violins and spots the Red Violin and tries it out, but Morritz convinces him that it is not the Red Violin. It is then revealed in flashback that the varnish contains some of Bussotti’s beloved wife’s blood, giving it its distinctive red colour , and is painted with a brush made from her hair. When the varnish samples arrive, Morritz is shocked to realize that the violin’s varnish contains blood. At the same time, the manager of the auction, Leroux (Mercure), and the lead auctioneer (Feore) confront Morritz about the expenses he has incurred and ask him the purpose of his inquiries. Morritz gave in and lets them know that the violin in question is indeed the Red Violin. Ruselsky was furious at this discovery as he believed that the violin should have been his.

Using his own funds, Morritz had Williams buy the copy from London, and it arrived in time for the auction, Williams authenticating that it is indeed the closest copy to the real thing. With this, Morritz headed to Duval’s, passing by the Pope foundation member in the process (recreating one of the first scenes in the film). He saw Ruselsky and they exchanged glances, Ruselsky still furious at Morritz’s deception. As the auction for the previous item wind down, Morritz, with Williams acting as a distraction, switched the Red Violin for its copy, accidentally dropping the auction tag in its storage area. As the copy is being sent to be bid on, Leroux noticed that the tag is missing and was about to call security when Williams found the tag. As the monks in Austria, the Pope Foundation member, Ming, and Mr. Ruselsky bid on the copy, Morritz rushed out, nearly getting run down by a car in the process. Ruselsky eventually beat out the other three bidding competitors for the copy. On his way back to the airport, Morritz calls his wife at home in New York City and asks to speak to his daughter telling her he has a special present for her upon his return.

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2 thoughts on “The Red Violin (1998)

  1. …but why is The Violin repaired, but a small jewel is removed from the violin’s scroll work. Isn’t this defacing it again?Just for the value of the jewel? I am watching this movie now and can’t get it out of my mind. Thanks.

    1. sorry for the late reply. I myself have no idea why the jewel is removed. But in my opinion, the man who sold antique stuff was not a violinist and he might find the jewel very valuable. It’s only a movie, but after watching the movie, I keep thinking about the history behind each of old violin I see *lol*

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