I saw 'En Kunstners gennembrud' in October 2006 at the Cinema Muto festival in Sacile, Italy. The festival screened a beautifully tinted acetate print, struck in 2001 from an original nitrate release print in Filmarchiv Austria, with German title card and intertitles replacing the Danish originals. The film's title has been rendered in English as 'The Soul of the Violin', but 'souls' (plural) would be more appropriate for this story.
The Austrian print's very minimal credits did not divulge whether this is an original story or an adaptation of some European folk legend. (I hope that a Danish print surfaces, with more information.) This movie has the very eerie feel of one of Hans Christian Andersen's darker fairy tales. It's a shame that Andersen's most well-known stories (at least in Britain and America) are the cheerful ones with happy or semi-happy endings. Some of his best fairy tales are very dark and eerie indeed, and 'The Soul of a Violin' (as I'll call it here) had exactly that spooky ambiance for me. This movie also reminded me of Alexander Pushkin's horror story 'Queen of Spades', as well as 'The Student of Prague' and the later (1921) German fantasy film 'The Lost Shadow', which also features an aspiring violinist.
Emanuel Restes is a struggling young violinist who longs for fame, and it's clear that this is more important to him than the music itself. Eventually, he learns that it's possible to capture the soul of a dying person within his violin: the instrument will then emit music with all the eloquence of its captive soul ... but at the cost of depriving the victim soul its rightful passage to the afterworld.
Of course, Emanuel chooses to do this, and he straight away becomes a successful musician. But there are unexpected events destined for him...
Normally, when synopsising an obscure film which other IMDb readers are unlikely to view for themselves, at this point I would put 'SPOILER' and then reveal the ending. In this case, I choose not to ... because I hope to cultivate widespread curiosity about this film, in an effort to give it more visibility. 'En Kunstners gennembrud' is a beautiful and eloquent film which deserves to become widely available. Unfortunately, its awkward running time (three-fourths of an hour) means that 'The Soul of a Violin' is unlikely to be released on home video or DVD except as part of a compilation programme. Whatever it takes; this film deserves to be seen.
'En Kunstners gennembrud' is an eerie supernatural story that borders on the horror-film genre. I'm tempted to state (untruthfully) that this movie *IS* a horror film, so that the well-organised cadres of horror-flick fans will get a campaign going to bring this obscure masterpiece to DVD. Nasty rumours elsewhere to the contrary, I'm not going to lie to you on this website: 'En Kunstners gennembrud' is almost spooky enough to be a horror movie, but not quite. It's really more of a dark fairy tale for adults. My rating: 9 out of 10. Make every effort to view this movie.
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