Young Mexican writer/director Francisco Vargas has fashioned with The Violin a passionately told tale based on revolutionary lore, touching on the power of music to inspire, awaken and also confront injustice through the seductive artistic imagination, and implement insurrection and social change. The film, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Miami Film Festival in March and was screened at this year’s Human Rights Watch Film Festival in June, opens on December 5th at NYC’s Film Forum, and later on elsewhere.
Based in part on Carlos Prieto’s book, The Adventures of a Cello, the film takes place during a period of brutal government repression, and popular uprising in Mexico. The guerillas of the rebellious rural Hidalgo tribe are at an impasse without the necessary weaponry to defeat the army. Their only salvation is remarkably in the hands – or rather remaining hand – of an elderly farmer and talented violinist Don Plutarco (Don Angel Tavira), who manages to create the miraculous sounds that flow from his instrument, by having the bow of his fiddle tied to his stump.
Plutarco and two younger generations of his family survive with these performances on the street. But now the elderly man’s task is one requiring fierce courage as a musical warrior against the regime – to distract and lull the dreaded military commander with his sounds while enabling a cache of military weapons to be secretly smuggled to the guerillas.
Vargas crafts his tale with a harsh gritty realism that embues the valor of these salt of the earth souls with ever deeper wells of courage and determination. The Violin stirs and inspires with the power of tenderness that fuels art in opposition to oppression, while never diminishing with the grandeur of its aesthetic wonders, its own raw presentation of the brutal realities of the oppressors.
A Film Movement Release
3 1/2 stars