The Devil's Violinist

"Very Good"

The Devil's Violinist Review


Filmmaker Bernard Rose gives the period biopic a kick in the seat of the pants with this raucously creepy drama about 19th century violin virtuoso Nicolo Paganini, who played so innovatively that people thought he had made a pact with the devil. Rose takes this idea and runs with it, stirring in modern-day ideas of fame and celebrity and finding a series of very clever ways to make violin-playing feel fresh and intriguing. So it's a little frustrating that the central figure remains so oddly out of reach.

After struggling to get anyone to pay him any attention in early 1800s Vienna, Nicolo (played by real violin prodigy David Garrett) signs his soul away to Urbani (Jared Harris), a fast-talking promoter who turns him into a celebrity across Europe. In London, musician Watson (Christian McKay) wants Nicolo to play the Royal Opera House and restore the local fortunes, so hawks his home to bring him over. When he finally arrives, the streets are full of screaming fans, clamouring tabloid hacks (including Joely Richardson) and women protesting Nicolo's notorious womanising and devil worship. But Watson, his mistress Elizabeth (Veronica Ferres) and daughter Charlotte (Andrea Deck) try to sooth Nicolo's artistic temperament. Of course, Nicolo is immediately smitten by Charlotte.

The film has a refreshingly free-wheeling tone, with handheld camerawork, whizzy editing and a continual sense of the music, which is played at high-energy in a variety of colourful locations. Every scene is also layered with bawdy intrigue, as characters mistrust and/or lust after each other. The seasoned cast members have a great time with this. Harris is gleefully sinister with his towering hat and sinister accent. McKay is haplessly eager for his ship to come in far against the odds. And Richardson goes enjoyably broad as a journalist willing to do anything for a scoop.

On the other hand, Garrett leaves a bit of a hole at the film's centre. He's terrific when he's playing violin or talking about music, but most of his scenes feel oddly superficial, partly because the character isn't hugely developed beyond his predilection for gambling, women and inebriation. He's like a 19th century rock star, oblivious about everything but himself. And opposite him, Deck steals the show as the not-so-naive young woman who initially resists his charms. Thankfully, Rose keeps everything so edgy that we never have a clue what might happen next. So even if the story plays loosely with the facts, it's involving and entertaining. And it has some interesting things to say about the cost of fame.



The Devil's Violinist

Facts and Figures

Genre: Dramas

Run time: 122 mins

In Theaters: Friday 30th January 2015

Distributed by: Freestyle Releasing

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

IMDB: 6.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: Christian Angermayer, Gabriela Bacher, Rosilyn Heller,

Starring: as Nicolo Paganini, as Ethel Langham, as Urbani, Andrea Deck as Charlotte Watson, as John Watson, Veronica Ferres as Elizabeth Wells, as Lord Burghersh

Also starring: ,

Contactmusic


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