Red Violin plays around the world


When Quebec film-maker Francois Girard says he was following his dream when he made The Red Violin, he means it quite literally.

In 1994, Girard was visiting a friend in London.

They had chatted over dinner about objects travelling through cultures and time.

That night, he dreamed about a violin travelling through such diverse countries as Italy, Austria, England and China.

Three years later, Girard began shooting The Red Violin, an epic story of a romance, tragedy, treachery and intrigue that spans three centuries and three continents. It opens here on Friday.

"The violin in my story represents immortal love," explains Girard from his offices in Montreal, adding "the film is a journey through time and place but, more importantly, it is a journey through cultures."

For Girard, this meant filming The Red Violin in six international locations and in five languages.

"When we were still working on the screenplay, the distribution arms of the film studios we were working with asked if we would consider filming the entire movie in English."

Girard said such a request was a non issue.

"Sticking to any one language would have gone against the very spirit of the film."

It was for this same reason Girard never thought twice about re-creating his various foreign locations in Quebec as is often done to save money and time.

"The people of each of those regions are as important as any building." This posed quite a problem when it came to the Shanghai portion of the story because Girard and his co-writer Don McKeller had set this part of the violin's journey during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s.

"The Chinese authorities were saddened that we had chosen this time in their country's history. They also knew we were not willing to compromise the story in any way," he says.

McKeller visited China twice to plead his case, but eventually had to begin shooting the film.

"I was in England filming the episode right before the Shanghai section when we finally got our permission to film in China.

"We considered this a wonderful omen."

Though Girard's story deals with how artists suffered during the Cultural Revolution, he wasn't prepared for what occurred.

"Cao Kun Qi, who plays the deputy persecuting the artists, was actually a Red Guard during the Cultural Revolution, and Liu Zi Feng, who plays the old music teacher, was an actual victim of the purges," explains Girard.

Despite its international cast and shooting schedule, The Red Violin was made for $14 million and has already been sold to every major international market. The Red Violin was a hit at both the Montreal and Toronto film festivals this year.

By LOUIS B. HOBSON - Calgary Sun

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