The Red Violin (1998)

The Red Violin (1998)

A lost violin bears witness to the world’s search for the sublime in this ambitious anthology



Canada, Italy
English, French, German
Drama, Music, Mystery, Romance
Anita Laurenzi, Arthur Denberg, Carlo Cecchi
131 min


It’s really an interesting film about life’s mysteries, which now happens to include the possibility of blood as violin varnish and playing violin during sex.

What it's about

After losing his wife to childbirth, legendary violin maker Nicolò Bussotti created his last instrument in Cremona, Italy, 1681. As predicted by the local fortune teller, Bussotti’s creation makes its way across several owners and continents across the centuries, inspiring passion, love, and resistance to all those that own it.

The take

We mostly think of objects as just stuff to buy, to sell, to give, and to throw away, but for many musicians, their instruments are quite important to them. The Red Violin takes it to the extreme– with the titular instrument infused with the life force of a human– but the film justifies this passion, the pain, and the cost through one of the most beautiful violin scores ever made, and through an ambitious series of vignettes spanning across four centuries and five countries. As the object passes hands, and the owners live, and play, and die, The Red Violin suggests that while these artists’ lives are fleeting, there’s still something human and important in chasing the sublime, and this instrument is just proof of it.

What stands out

The music. Of course, when a film is named after an instrument, the music is expected to be heavily influenced by it, but composer John Corigliano and violinist Joshua Bell surpasses expectations, creating an outstanding collection of pieces that I wish I could hear again for the first time.


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