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The Red Violin (1998)

Le violon rouge (original title)
A red-colored violin inspires passion, making its way through three centuries over several owners and countries, eventually ending up at an auction where it may find a new owner.


François Girard
Won 1 Oscar. Another 19 wins & 19 nominations. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Carlo Cecchi Carlo Cecchi ... Nicolo Bussotti (Cremona)
Irene Grazioli Irene Grazioli ... Anna Bussotti (Cremona)
Anita Laurenzi Anita Laurenzi ... Cesca (Cremona)
Tommaso Puntelli Tommaso Puntelli ... Apprentice (Cremona)
Aldo Brugnini Aldo Brugnini ... Assistant (Cremona)
Samuele Amighetti Samuele Amighetti ... Boy (Cremona)
Jean-Luc Bideau ... Georges Poussin (Vienna)
Christoph Koncz Christoph Koncz ... Kaspar Weiss (Vienna)
Clotilde Mollet Clotilde Mollet ... Antoinette Pussin (Vienna)
Rainer Egger Rainer Egger ... Brother Christophe (Vienna)
Wolfgang Böck ... Brother Michael (Vienna)
Florentin Groll Florentin Groll ... Anton von Spielmann (Vienna)
Johannes Silberschneider ... Father Richter (Vienna)
Arthur Denberg Arthur Denberg ... Prince Mansfeld (Vienna)
Paul Koeker Paul Koeker ... Brother Gustav (Vienna)


In present day Montreal, a famous Nicolo Bussotti violin, known as "the red violin," is being auctioned off. During the auction, we flash back to the creation of the violin in 17th century Italy, and follow the violin as it makes its way through an 18th century Austrian monastery, a violinist in 19th century Oxford, China during the Cultural Revolution, and back to Montreal, where a collector tries to establish the identity and the secrets of "the red violin." Written by Sean Gallagher <naes@cgocable.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


An instrument of passion. A shocking secret. An extraordinary journey. See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for some sexuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


This movie is structurally very similar to The Yellow Rolls Royce (1964). In each case the plot follows the picaresque adventures of a man-made object around which the human characters interact. The adventures are unrelated to each other and take place sequentially in different times and geographies. See more »


When Frederick Pope is playing his new composition at the concert hall in Oxford, the last note continues for a couple of seconds after he takes the bow off the string. See more »


Charles Morritz: What do you do when the thing you most wanted, so perfect, just comes?
See more »


Referenced in Diminishing Returns: Frankenstein (2016) See more »


O Richard! O mon Roi!
from "Richard Coeur de Lion"
Composed by André-Modeste Grétry
See more »

User Reviews

A wonderful ride, a bit thin by the end, but great mise-en-scene meanwhile
9 July 2012 | by secondtakeSee all my reviews

The Red Violin (1998)

A total romantic fiction, rather compelling in its construction over many centuries, and beautifully wrought in each era.

I don't suppose the violin needs romanticizing, nor does it need a kind of obvious group hug view of its history, but that's the feel good, up and down, loving story it takes. First there is the small violin shop where it is made, and the tragedy around this particular model, the maker's last. It's supposed to come from the same era as the Strad and other timeless fiddles. It's a great place to begin a story filled with mysteries (and the mystery of a great violin, it's shape, wood, and varnish, is given high tech reinforcement in the end with an electronic awe). So the violin is born.

And it moves from a Austrian orphanage (with an unbelievable prodigy) to generations of gypsies (some interesting filming with the violin suspended in space as one after another player takes it up) to a crackpot British prodigy (who acts more like a rock star and an indulgent one, if that's not redundant). Finally it winds its way (not so improbably, because life is weird) to China, which of course echoes the modern rise of the Asian virtuosi coming from that part of the world.

So the tale is the history of a violin, a possessed one. The spirit of the instrument seems to inhabit the movie. This is reinforced by an Italian fortune-teller (a kindly witch) who has an early Tarot deck. The Tarot was not used for divination that early--it was introduced a card game in Northern Italy in the late 1400s--but that's okay, because it works into the plot really well. Five cards are chosen by the pregnant wife of the master violin maker. Each is turned over for another twenty minute chapter in the movie. In a key moment, the wife asks the fortune teller, what if I don't like what it says, what if it's evil? And the fortune teller says, "I'll pretend not to notice."

Promptly the moon is the first card, the most ominous card in the deck (I've studied tarot a bit, which is why, weirdly enough, I watched the movie). But the fortune teller doesn't say that doom is facing the pregnant wife. Instead she lies, and the movie takes one turn after another.

You might think this is brilliant stuff, and it has the trappings of that. It could have been, with some slight twist of intentions, artfully transcendent. But it's a hair long at times, and by the last (modern) scenes, a bit cold and unfulfilling. I don't know the solution to what might have worked, but I know it left me interested and curious by the end, not quite bowled over, which is clearly (on the sleeve) the intention.

Still, an engaging, musically rich tapestry of great scenes, great music, and a brimming story. Recommended, with slight reservations.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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French | English | Mandarin | Italian | German

Release Date:

11 June 1999 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Red Violin See more »


Box Office


$18,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$47,415, 8 November 1998

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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