What a novel allegory for a story: a seemingly cursed but sought-after violin with a melancholy sound and unusual color meanders through three centuries of owners and as many continents before being discovered by a modern-day auctioneer.
This voyage starts a tad slowly, the first fifteen minutes had me skeptical, but when it ropes you in it really does with its vivid, poignant meditation of our relationship to beauty, our shadow-need to possess and even control it, our soul's craving to be nurtured by its radiance.
Especially memorable is the score that accompanies the mellifluous cinematography, a marvel in itself, especially the violin selections played by virtuoso Joshua Bell.
A few attempts to create the mystique of eroticism and suspense are admittedly clunky. The crone with tarot cards who foretells the violin's story looks like a character from The Princess Bride or a child's fairy tale. An episode involving Greta Scacchi as a seductive novelist who warms up a long-haired English virtuoso before his performances makes one giggle and triggers a desire to shout, "Watch out for that bow!"
But the director more than compensates for this by infusing the sort of visual splendor that rewards a discerning viewer with several captivating strands of the story that unfold only with ongoing consideration. It is a pleasure to mull the complex themes afterwards.
A most unusual film, no great action, no glorious climax, but a haunting mood around a spell-binding theme. Filmmaking of the highest order, and recommended with equal enthusiasm.