The Red Violin (1998) Poster

Frequently Asked Questions

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  • The film is based on a screenplay co-written by Canadian film-makers Don McKellar and François Girard (who also directed the movie). They based their story on a certain Stradivarius violin, the Red Mendelssohn (1721), currently owned by concert violinist Elizabeth Pitcairn.

  • Actually, the story of the Red Violin spans five countries and over 300 years from the time it was created in 1681 by Niccolò Bussoti (Carlo Cecchi) in Cremona, Italy to its sale at the Duval auction house in Montreal, Canada in 1997. In the interim, the violin "travels" to Vienna, Austria; Oxford, England; and Shanghai, China. In each of these cities, the language of the film is appropriate to the city, i.e., Italian in Cremona, German and French in Vienna, English in Oxford, Mandarin in Shanghai, and French and English in Montreal. The movie is subtitled in English.

  • At the beginning of the film, Bussoti's wife Anna (Irene Grazioli) asks her servant Cesca (Anita Laurenzi) to read her fortune according to the Tarot cards. Five cards are laid out on the table, and Cesca overturns each one at various points in the movie. The first card to be overturned is The Moon, which Cesca interprets as pointing to a long life with many journeys. This fortune is in contradiction to Anna's fate, as Anna dies shortly thereafter in childbirth. As the movie progresses, it becomes apparent that the remaining Tarot cards The Hanged Man, The Devil, Justice, and Death—are actually describing the "life" of the Red Violin.

  • The first card, The Moon (La Luna), is interpreted by Cesca as meaning "a long life, full and rich" with many journeys. In the context of the movie, it refers to the birth of the Red Violin and its journey through life. The second card, The Hanged Man (L'Impiccato), warns of "danger" and "disease" and corresponds to the violin's childhood with Kaspar Weiss (Christoph Koncz). Cesca describes The Devil (Il Diavolo), as referring to "a time of lust and energy", during which she will meet a handsome, intelligent, and seductive man. He turns out to be the lusty violin virtuoso, Frederick Pope (Jason Flemyng). When describing the fourth card, Justice (La Giustizia), Cesca predicts that there will be "a trial before a powerful magistrate" where "you will be found guilty." This describes the violin's role during the Cultural Revolution in China. Finally, Cesca describes Death (Morte) as pointing to a "journey's end". Because the card is reversed, however, it foretells of an ending followed by "rebirth."

  • Lazarus of Bethany appears in the Gospel of John in the New Testament of the Bible. The story goes that Lazarus was resurrected four days after his death by Jesus Christ. By referring to the Red Violin as a "Lazarus soul," Cesca means that the Red Violin also has the ability of becoming restored to "life" after its seeming death.

  • Yes. According to the DVD commentary, Christoph Koncz was indeed playing the violin. There were no special effects involved.

  • Four individuals, each from one aspect of the Red Violin's life, were involved in the final bidding. There was Suzanne (Paula de Vasconcelos) (representing the Vienna monks), Nicolas Olsberg (Julian Richings) ( representing the Pope Foundation), adult Ming (Russell Yuen) from China, and renown concert pianist Ruselsky (Ireneusz Bogajewicz). In the end, Ruselsky beats out the first three and obtains the violin for $2,400,000.

  • No. It wasn't until Morritz's identification made the newspapers that Ruselsky became angry, claiming that he recognized the Red Violin from the beginning but that Morritz lied to him. "It should have been mine!" Ruselsky protests.

  • The current Chinese government sends a number of violins to Duval's auction house in Montreal, and New York appraiser Charles Morritz (Samuel L. Jackson) is called to provide a second opinion as to their value and authenticity. Right away, he suspects that a certain reddish-colored violin may be the Red Violin created by Niccolò Bussoti in 1681. Several notations and acoustic tests on the violin seem to confirm his suspicions. He sends a sample of the lacquer to the University of Montreal, and they identify the red pigment in the varnish, further cementing his suspicion. When the violin is test-played by Ruselsky, Morritz hears the violin sing to him, but Ruselsky concludes that it is "nothing special." For a final comparison, Morritz arranges to purchase the one known copy of the Red Violin and have it shipped from London to Montreal. On the day of the auction, as Morritz prepares to return to New York, he stops at Duval's where the Red Violin is about to go on the block. In the commotion of the auction, Morritz exchanges the Red Violin and the copy, dropping the auction ID tag on the floor. The manager of the auction finds the tag and places it back on the violin, which is eventually purchased by Ruselsky for $2,400,000. In the final scene, Morritz leaves for the airport and phones his daughter from the taxi, telling her that he is bringing her "a very special gift."

  • Director François Girard (in the DVD commentary) admits that the question most frequently asked of him is whether or not Morritz stole the Red Violin, but he chooses to leave that interpretation up to the audience. Viewers of the movie have offered two possibilities. One is that Morritz wished to save the Red Violin from falling into Ruselsky's hands, so he exchanged it with his copy. In this scenario, Ruselsky ends up buying the copy, and Morritz takes home the Red Violin to his daughter, thus fulfilling Cesca's interpretation of the final Tarot card. A second possibility is that Morritz had already switched the copy and the Red Violin, then had a change of heart and returned it to the auction house to be purchased by Mr Ruselsky, who might continue to play it in his concerts, thus allowing its "voice" to continue to be heard. Girard considers Ruselsky to be the "villain" of the movie because he wanted only to possess the Red Violin, and screenwriter Don McKellar makes the comment that he feels Morritz indeed ended up with the Red Violin and that the curse was lifted because he was empathizing with the violin for the right reasons.


The FAQ items below may give away important plot points.

  • The red color comes from a pigment that Bussoti mixed into the lacquer he used for finishing the wood. It is not revealed until late in the movie that the pigment was actually the blood of his wife Anna, who dies in childbirth just before Bussoti finished the violin.

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