The Red Violin

The Red Violin is a biography, of sorts. It is not a biography of a person but one of a very special violin

There are some movies that seem to be made for DVD release. They are the ones that when you invite friends over to your home to experience your system you put on. In the past these movies included such films as Apollo 13, Air Force One and Blade. The near perfection of the sound, the crystal clarity of the picture leaves your friends in awe of just how good home theater can be. Now, there is a new showcase DVD to impress your friends. The Red Violin is that disc. The Red Violin is a biography, of sorts. It is not a biography of a person but one of a very special violin.

Created in 1681 but a master craftsman, the violin enjoys over three hundred years of ‘adventures’. The Red Violin is a series of short stories, each showing a portion of the life on this remarkable instrument. Tying the stories together is an auction being held in our time where the premiere piece is the Red Violin. Introducing each of the stories is a fortuneteller’s predictions being laid out before the wife of the craftsman. First there is one hundred years in the hands of a group of German monks that use the violin to teach music to orphans. One day there is a young boy that is a true musical prodigy. He is taken under the wing of a social climbing music teacher. Next, the violin is taken into the custody of a group of Gypsies. Next, the violin winds up as a symbol of Western decadence in China. When the tides of social revolution turn and China becomes more capitalistic, the violin winds up in our time in the auction house.

The cast is a sweeping as the sage they tell. Many of the cast members will be unfamiliar to American audiences and much of the dialogue is subtitled but don’t let this turn you off. Each cast member was selected for his or her talent in the same way a choice piece of wood would be incorporated into the making of a fine instrument. I have to list the cinematography and score as part of the cast. The camera work is stunning. Each scene is like a masterpiece painting playing light and dark, depicting the time. You are literally transported back to each time and place. The Oscar winning score is magnificent. It enfolds you in an envelope of beauty like listening to a fine classical concert.

The director, Francois Girard, manages to not only hold the various stories together but he creates a tapestry of wonderment. He integrates the writing, camera work, acting and music into something that will last in the annuls of cinema for a long time. He grabs hold of this ambitious project and masters it completely.

As stated above The Red Violin disc is among the new touchstones to gauge a home theater system. The video is completely without flaw. Whether the camera is in bright light of murky shadows, the transfer is without artifact or blemish. As for the sound, again all that can be said is to marvel at its perfection. There are two separate soundtracks, Dolby 5.1 and DTS. After watching The Red Violin in both formats I did prefer the DTS mix. It was far more sweeping in depth and scope and provide more back fill to the sound field. That’s not to underestimate the Dolby 5.1 version. While not as balanced as the DTS it is still magnificent. There is one notable extra to this disc, a soundtrack only presentation. With such attention made to the audio there was not enough room on this single sided, dual layer disc. Still, you will not be disappointed in the least. The only down side I could find with the production of this disc is very minor and more of an annoyance that a problem. In order to change between Dolby 5.1 and DTS you have to go to the main menu and then select languages. You must then select DTS and then confirm the selection with another menu. Many other discs permit changing the audio format directly from the audio selection button of the DVD player’s remote control. Bottom line, do not miss The Red Violin disc.

Review by Doug MacLean of

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