Red Violin, The

The Red Violin (1998), a Canada/Italy/US/UK co-production, is the tale of a violin, told with overlapping storylines involving the people who own it over a period of 300 years. From its creator, a grieving 17th-century Italian master violinmaker (Carlo Cecchi) whose wife dies in childbirth, the violin passes to a child prodigy (Christoph Koncz), a band of gypsies, an English virtuoso (Jason Flemyng), a Chinese Communist official (Sylvia Chang) during the Cultural Revolution, and finally to a Montréal auction room, where it is coveted by many but stolen at the last moment by a musicologist (Samuel L. Jackson) hired to prove its authenticity. A fortune teller reveals the violin's odyssey in a clever series of flash-forwards, and at the same time there is a flashback structure, as the bidders arrive at the auction house in Montréal and we learn why they desire the instrument.

With a screenplay written by Don MCKELLAR and François GIRARD, who is also its director, the film is overly long and falters on occasion but is visually magnificent, with meticulous period recreations. It won eight Genie Awards, including best picture, director and screenplay; and nine Prix Jutras at the inaugural Quebec film awards, including best picture, director, screenplay and supporting actor (Colm FEORE).

The Red Violin's classical musical score was nominated for a Grammy Award and won an Oscar for best musical score, the first such honour for a Canadian film.