The Devil's Violinist (2013)

R  |   |  Biography, Drama, Musical  |  30 January 2015 (USA)
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The life story of Italian violinist and composer, Niccolò Paganini, who rose to fame as a virtuoso in the early 19th Century.



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2 nominations. See more awards »



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Credited cast:
Ethel Langham
John Watson
Elizabeth Wells
Lord Burghersh
Primrose Blackstone
Charlotte Watson
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Thomas Anton ...
Burly Man
Peter R. Bishop ...
Peter Bosch ...
Charlotte's Husband
David Godden ...
Ticket Tout
Stephen Hastings ...
Franziska Huber ...


1830. Violin virtuoso and notorious womanizer Niccolò Paganini (David Garrett) is at the peak of his career, acclaimed throughout Europe. His name alone suggests countless affairs and scandals - which is exactly what his manager Urbani (Jared Harris) is doing his utmost to cultivate, for it is in his interest to market his famous client the best way possible. Only the London public has yet to be conquered. In a plan to lure Paganini to London for his British debut, English impresario John Watson (Christian McKay) and his mistress Elisabeth Wells (Veronica Ferres) risk all they own. Business-savvy Urbani ultimately manages to bring Paganini to the British capital, albeit against his will. And thanks to the rave reviews by journalist Ethel Langham (Joely Richardson), Urbani's strategy seems to be working better than he imagined. Fans throng his hotel, causing pandemonium. Musician and manager are forced to take refuge at Watson's home, where Paganini quickly takes a liking to his host's... Written by Summerstorm Entertainment

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Fame is desire, love is a curse

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for some strong sexuality/nudity, and for drug use | See all certifications »

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Release Date:

30 January 2015 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El violinista del diablo  »

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Did You Know?


Limelight is used in several concert scenes (including showing the actual chunk of lime), but the film is set in 1830 and the first use of limelight for a performance of any kind was 1836 and for theater performance in 1837. Further, Paganini had ended his concert performances in 1834 and his lifestyle and health made it highly unlikely that he would have ever stood in the limelight before his death. See more »


Urbani: How quickly they have turned on you...
Niccolò Paganini: Urbani...
Urbani: I'm willing to forgive your disloyalty...
Niccolò Paganini: I've taken several beatings. I'll never take you back.
Urbani: You did not really love her. You loved the idea of what you thought she was. An innocent. Someone whose purity could redeem you of your many sins. But she's human! She has the same carnality and ambition as you. All that would have happened, is that you would have destroyed her... you would've have corrupted her... with the same seeding and infection ...
See more »

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User Reviews

Unconvincing period biopic
19 June 2015 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Niccolò Paganini (David Garrett) is a virtuoso violinist, stolen from Italian obscurity by the serpentine Urbani (Jared Harris) and brought to swinging 19th century London on the request of struggling promoter John Watson (Christian McKay). There his lascivious urges and his musical genius find equal outlet, until his heart is attuned to Charlotte (Andrea Deck), with whom he shares a harmonious partnership. Tragedy encroaches, however, as those who brought Paganini to the top conspire to cast him into the gutter once more.

What is the truth of Paganini? Bernard Rose's biopic plays fast and loose, which shouldn't matter because art strives for universal truths. Yet such striving often leads to cliché, as has happened here. As an instrument the violin lends itself well to furious solos, so the transition from classical musician to rock god is easy – throw in some long shaggy hair and stubble and sunglasses and we've basically got ourselves a Georgian Ozzy Osbourne. Not that the film is terribly anarchic. Early on we get some Dogma 95-influenced hand-held camera and hack 'n' slash editing but it soon gives way to familiar period stageyness.

Rose's film exists in the same realm as Milos Forman's Amadeus and touches on some of the same themes – genius emerging from chaos, both a creative and destructive force – but it's a relatively shallow movie, and one whose TV budget cannot be elevated by its impressively crashing classical soundtrack and its smoggy capital exteriors. Forman's film had a force-of-nature at its centre in the form of Tom Hulce. The Devil's Violinist has David Garrett, who's a wonderful violinist but no actor. Alarm bells ring when a character is meant to be thinking hard about something and actually grabs their chin.

But then, could any actor have provided a sympathetic portrayal? How charming is any man this juvenile; this unprofessional? Why should we care for a man who whinges about being "misunderstood" in one breath then dismisses his fans with the next? How do we side with someone who claims to love another and then accidentally shags a complete stranger with the same hair colour? Better writing and an actual actor might have helped us answer these questions.

Garrett isn't very well-supported, to be fair. Harris turns a scheming snake into a pantomime villain. Joely Richardson is gobsmackingly miscast as a cockney troublemaker. And while Alien Isolation fans may be pleased to see Andrea Deck in her full feature debut, I wouldn't expect the scripts to start piling on her doormat on the basis of this. But then, again, Charlotte is bafflingly written: she's genuinely repulsed by Paganini – a player and a player – only to spin on a sixpence once she hears him knock out a few notes, melody apparently trumping manners.

Rose has a firm hold of his film's darkly humorous tone, and the musical performances are, inevitably, spectacular (almost worth the rental fee alone, if for some reason an actual David Garrett Live DVD isn't available). But the decision to build a movie around a real musician backfires horribly, and with a bland and over-familiar script ("Who is the real you?" one character genuinely asks) it has to go down as a handsome, tuneful failure.

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