The story of the film takes us on a cyclical journey tracking the red violin from present-day Montreal through the design and birth of instrument in 17th century Italy to an 18th century Austrian monastery. We then follow the red violin as it enters the hands of 19th century Oxford violinist to China’s Cultural Revolution, and finally back to present-day Montreal where the violin is being prepared for auction. During the scenes during the present, we see how the violin is a mysterious object and many “copies” have been made. Samuel L. Jackson’s character, Charles Morritz, works to discover the violin’s mysteries and identify it as genuine.
The red violin is a perfect violin named as such for its rich red coloring. We come to find that the designer’s wife dies in childbirth and he stains the wood with her blood in remembrance. The violin is associated not only with beautiful music but the deep emotion and pivotal meaning that it brings to the life of each owner. Anyone who has owned the red violin has known such extremes of happiness, betrayal, love, and sacrifice. The film shows us five different locations spanning more than three hundred years. The film takes place in Cremona, Italy, Vienna, Oxford, Shanghai, and Montreal. With each location, the filmmakers decided to have dialogue spoken in the appropriate language for a sense of realism.
It is thought that this 1998 film was inspired by the real-life Red Mendelssohn, made in 1720 by Stradivarius. The magnificent soundtrack that accompanies The Red Violin was composed for the film by Academy Award winner John Corigliano. The film itself received many accolades including the Academy Award for Best Original Score (by John Corigliano), nine Jutra Awards, and eight Genie Awards (Canada) including Best Original Score, Best Motion Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay. The Red Violin also enjoyed the win of a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film, the Best Artistic Contribution Award at the Tokyo International Film Festival, and a Golden Reel Award for sound editing. While it did not win, it was also nominated for the Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture or Television Grammy Award.
The Red Violin is a beautiful, passionate tale filled with love, tragedy, romance, adventure, and mystery. As we watch the violin prepared for auction, we are treated with bits and pieces of each of the violin’s previous lives. The cinematography and acting is accompanied by a wonderful soundtrack with pieces composed just for the film by Corigliano. Corigliano has such an eclectic and free style that makes the music truly inspirational and well fitted to this film.