The Red Violin is on my list of favourite movies. Yup, I know it is not a big commercial success and that it is a difficult movie. A friend told me it is proof of my obsession with death, whatever. I love its musical score! A movie named The Red Violin couldn´t be anything but a musical with a powerful score!
As a tarot aficcionado, the spread of the movie is also interesting.
The movie begins in XVII century Italy. A luthier is making a violin for his son to be born son. His wife asks a servant to read her unborn child´s fortune on the tarochino, and although she is wary of Reading the fortune of someone who is not yet born, she yields to the woman´s plead and opens a Reading.
The first card is The Moon. She reads as the child is going to live a long life. The arcane does not exactly mean it, however. It talks about mystery and things that happen beyond the realm of rational understanding. It is going to be a life of dream, of mystical learning, of perhaps never quite reaching fully out of the woomb of the primeaval Waters which reflect the light of the sun, that is the light that the Moon reflect on us.
As it happens, the luthier´s wife dies at childbirth. Tortured with the pain of loosing his beloved wife and his child, he drags her body to his workshop, and drains what blood he can from her body, mixing with varnish, cuts her hair and makes a brush with it, then paints the violin, the violin he had been crafting with all his love, red, and places a Ruby on it. His last instrument, the last work of his life. A work of love, death and life.
This is how the Red Violin is born. It is not a tale about death pure and simple, but about life, a long and mysterious life that we´re about to follow.
The second card the servant draws to the Luthier´s wife is The Hangman, meaning sorrow and pain to those around her. Which is pretty much true. There is however a catch to this card: it speaks of talent, and of being unable to let go or to influence your own life, and thus the hands behind the hangman´s back.
We find the Violin in an orphanage, one hundred years later. How many little hands touched and played it! It had been used to praise the Lord Almighty, to teach the Young and to entertain the priests and visitors, and it is hard to say whether anyone saw its Worth. Until a very Young boy, an orphan, learns to play on it, and he is a marvelous talent! Silent and sweet Kaspar Weiss, plays like na angel, and despite a small birth defect., hardly noticed at first, he is such a promise, that the friars decide to share that talent with the world and send him to Vienna to improve his technique and become a great musician. His teacher insists on him increasing his tempo, which is very taxing on the boys health, but he throws himself to the task with gusto. The violin is not suited for childish hands, but there is no way anyone can take that instrument from him. We understand that the Violin is not a toy or a musical instrument, it is his friend, his soul, part of his body. When a noble sponsor does not show great enthusiasm for the boy, but makes na offer for the violin, the boy collapses and dies for the fear of losing his violin.
The friars take the boy and violin back, and when the teacher returns to the monastery to try to buy the instrument, he learns that the friars buried the violin with Kaspar, so he could play to the angels.
Little could that child do to decide his destiny, he did have talent, but might not have been enough for his time, or he might have been suited for other styles, we shall never know. He was taken away from the only place he knew as home and filled with hope, had no love, and feared loosing the only thing he still held dear. He could or would no let go. He died, and even in death, clung to his love. A love others acknowledged.
Corrigliano wrote such sweet scores for this part of the movie! It highlights innocent love, and loneliness and pain.
The transition to the next card is marked by the gipsy travel. The Violin is stolen by gipsies and it travels through Europe, being played by many men around campfires, on fairs, for the enjoyment of common people, of tribesman, just an ordinary instrument.
The Third card is The Devil, and the servant says that she will be seduced by and intelligent and attractive man. The Violin resurfaces in the late nineteenth century England among a band of gypsies, where it catches the attention of a renowned musician, Frederick Pope. He is a handsome, intelligent, sensual and very talented violinist, who has a lover, a writer who is also his muse. When she leaves to Russia, to finish a novel, he looses his muse and descends into vice, opium addiction and abuses his own body with all kinds of sensual delights, none of it fulfilling. Once his lover hears of Pope´s misfortunes, she hurries back to England and finds out that he has a new muse, the Gypsy violin player who´s sold him The Red Violin, and sees them having sex. Distraught she fires a gun at them, damaging the violin, and then leaving him forever. He regrets ever hurting the woman he loved, and in his suicide letter, leaves his entire estate to her, yet the Violin ends up with his Chinese servant, who takes it to Shanghai.
Pope is clearly inspired by Paganini. Women fainting with excitement, his remarkable technique and fast playing, that made women feel as if he was actually touching their bodies… Paganini had this aura, of a musician that had made a pact with the devil, so he could be able to play so well as to hypnotize people, and hold them in thrall. Nothing farther from the truth, since he ended his life in relative poverty. Or not, cause isn´t a pact with the devil also a curse, so you can never fully enjoy any profit from your bargain?
This is the part of the screenplay that best captures the spirit of the tarot card. At least of some of its aspects. It is beautiful, sensual, brilliant, capable of reaching heights unknown to mankind and of plunging deeper than anyone else, it is fully corporeal, sensualistic, voracious. It is Kaspar Weiss grown to manhood, fulfilling his destiny of great virtuoso, from heaven to Earth and relishing on it.