Disillusioned but not disenchanted…
The Red Violin is a film portraying the passage over time of a “perfect violin” from the ownership of one individual to another and the events which unfold in each individual’s life due to the violin. The film opens at the current time with the Red Violin being set up for an auction. Within the auction house are individual’s from all walks of life who have each come to bid on the violin for their own reasons. Upon one of these people bidding on the violin the story changes time and setting in order to give that individual’s reasoning for wishing to own the perfect Red Violin. To further dramatize the transitions each is set off by the prophecy of a fortune teller addressing the creator of the violin’s wife.
The violin is originally created by the craftsman Nicolo Bussotti of Italy, first as a gift for his still unborn child and upon the death of his child and wife painted red with his wife’s blood as a testament to her. Here the violin begins its journey around the globe and through time, arriving in a variety of places including a orphanage outside Vienna, through gypsies to the English violinist Frederick Pope, to China during the Cultural Revolution, and finally back to the area of Montréal Canada where it comes into contact with Charles Morritz who has been called to address the authenticity of the item. Upon learning the violin’s true history Morritz decides to claim the item for himself for reasoning unlike those present to bid. The bidders wish the violin for reasons ranging from sentimental to historical; Morritz wishes the violin for use in its true purpose, the making of music.
One of the major techniques developed in this film is the stunning use of sound. This is primarily accomplished through the use of a near constant classical violin melody throughout the entirety of the film. This use of sound serves to add both drama in some scenes, suspense in others and yet soothing melodies in others; as such the classical melody aides greatly in the creation of the mood for the scenes such as with a culmination of excitement during the concert of Frederick Pope. The use of sound is further played upon through employing sound dissolves. This is done especially in having the sounds of the next scene, primarily when the film is changing between settings and times, being heard before the next scene is seen. This allows for the scene and sound to fade into one-another, the next sound being heard before the prior sound is replaced.
Cinematography is another of the techniques which the film employs greatly in telling the story, primarily through use of the camera and different techniques in creating the shots. One particular instance of this is towards the end of the movie during Charles Morritz’s examination and contemplation of the violin. During many of these scenes the camera is set so that it appears as if the audience is looking from the inside of the violin out at Morritz as he studies it, similar to such shots as those through a keyhole where the camera’s boundaries are set by what the scene is being viewed through. Innovative camera style is also used during the scene with the gypsies in which the camera moves as one with them and also serves in keeping a moving feeling to the film which helps to keep the audience constantly interested.
As in many other films, the use of mise en scéne is done particularly well within this film. Such is demonstrated through the ability of the film to circulate through five different settings and times and still be able to keep the audience feeling as if the setting of the story is real. A good example of this is the use of costume design to portray the setting of each segment of the movie. Whether it is the Chinese revolutionaries green uniform in the slums of Shanghai, the torn, rugged and natural clothes of the traveling gypsies in England, the robes of the orphanage caretakers or the suits of the auctioneers in Montréal the clothes worn always serve to best portray the time and place in which the segment is set. Other examples of mis en scene used in the film include the use of reactionary shots, such as when the violin is nearly found missing from the auction house or when Pope is found with another woman.
Editing is yet another technique which is used in the film in order to aide in the mood and the telling of the story. One of the primary uses of editing relates back to the use of sound and the overlapping of sounds between scenes. In this it is thanks to editing that the scene transitions as it should to allow for the lap dissolve and thereby allows for a smooth transition from one place and time to another. Still further in the use of editing is the addition of slight tints to the screen in order to indicate the relation to the violin. These tints are generally of red or brown, relating back to the red and brown of the violin which the movie is centered around. Various cutting speeds are also used throughout the movie to help in the conveyance of the mood, whether exited and rushed or calmed and slow. Such is shown in the difference between the cutting rates of Popes performance or Morritz’s theft of the violin in comparison with the school of the orphanage or the traveling of the gypsies.
The film also uses a nonchronological progression of time often associated with fictional films. As the setting of the film changes in order to convey each bidder’s reasoning for wanting the violin the time of the setting changes as well. The film goes into the past to the violin’s creation, back to present, back into the past again to an old orphanage and back to the present again, proceeding through the process various times throughout the film.