David Heuser

The Red Violin

By the end of the movie, most of the secrets of the story have gradually been made clear by the back and forth of the narrative structure. The Tarot reading is really for the violin, through which the blood of the violin maker's wife will "run." On a deeper level, we can see that love pervades all of the relationships between owners and the violin throughout its history. That alone makes the ending a satisfying one; the theft is made not out of greed but out of love. And the instrument will be given away again to a child out of love.

This is also the story of the life of the violin, as so we have reflected in the violin's life, the stages of human life. The first important owner is a boy, who loves the instrument with a child's love, sleeping with it as if it were a teddy bear. Next we have the young man, who's love - or more properly lust - is dramatically contrasted with this by a short shot of Pope "sleeping" with the violin between his legs. This whole episode reeks of sex, even down to the kind of music performed on the instrument. And his death is also that of a foolish young man; "I can't live without you" - is this to his lover or to the injured violin? Of course, the phallic nature of the instrument is emphasized by it being shot when he is caught "in the act" - she symbolically is shooting his manhood and therefore killing his lustful nature. Lastly we have middle age - when childish dreams of fame (the little boy says "I want to be famous", Pope is famous) and passion must be put away if society is to get any real work done. Here in communist China, society literally suppresses the owners of the violin, literally suppresses the romantic, independent urge an instrument like this represents, literally suppresses the love of music (witness the forced destruction of recordings, music, etc.) which has been such a part of the history of the instrument. No time for that foolishness, there is practical work to be done.

This too, makes the ending satisfying. If the old collector gets the violin, well, we've already seen its fate. In a short shot of his home, we see a dozen or more hanging violins - a collection, seeming unused, unloved. Even his relationship to the violin is tainted with jealousy and a combative nature which strikes us as wrong. He seems to want it because he didn't immediately know it for what it was and someone else did; and that someone else is someone he does not consider an equal. Of course, in the stages of man, this is where the violin should pass to next - from childhood, to youth, to middle age, to old age and then to death. Indeed, each owner of the instrument dies before the instrument is passed on just as in each stage of our lives, we have to die to go on the next; the child in us must die for us to become an adult, and so on.

But here we have the possibility of rebirth. Another father giving the violin to their child just as the violin maker gave it to his. Rebirth, as real as the rebirth of the instrument in the hands of the restorer. The cycle begins again.

 Non Sequitur Music, Inc
Copyright 2013, David Heuser
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