The Devil’s Violinist movie review: all the wrong notes

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The Devil's Violinist red light

A hilariously histrionic depiction of 19th-century superstar violinist Niccolò Paganini’s rise to fame, far more Monty Python than Mozart.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Superstar violinist David Garrett had better keep his day job. Even as real-life 19th-century superstar violinist Niccolò Paganini, Garrett has badly overstretched his, ahem, minimalistic acting talent; I am being overly generous when I say that his vacant stare would have a plank of plywood laughing with derision at his impersonation of it. Paganini is supposed to be a capricious genius who is utterly irresistible to the ladies, but writer-director Bernard Rose (Sx_Tape) manages only the most hilariously histrionic depiction of Paganini’s rise to fame: it’s far more Monty Python than Mozart. (The Devil’s Violinist tries to hit a lot of the same notes as Amadeus… but misses all the charm, suspense, and drama. It’s almost incoherent when it isn’t expending so much energy on being ridiculous.) Jared Harris (The Boxtrolls) makes a five-course meal of the scenery and sports a wonderfully terrible vaguely Germanic accent as Paganini’s manager, who is apparently intended to be some sort of righthand man to Satan. A deal with the devil would be required to save this flick, which is crammed with false emotional notes and anticlimaxes that don’t appear to have required any demonic assistance to achieve. But I suspect even the Master of Darkness himself would disavow any knowledge of this.

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Wed, Feb 04, 2015 11:58am

By having a real violinist, they probably committed themselves to having full pieces of music, which can’t help the pacing.

I see the premiere was in 2013, and it’s only just been released.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  RogerBW
Wed, Feb 04, 2015 2:18pm

The pacing is the least of this movie’s problems.

Wed, Feb 04, 2015 3:23pm

Oh god. I just saw the trailer, and… yeah, David Garrett is not an actor. He *is* pretty amazing at his day job, though.

Sat, Feb 07, 2015 6:34pm

Why did you label this film as fresh on Rottentomatoes when you clearly have nothing good to say about it?

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Dyke
Sun, Feb 08, 2015 1:57pm

I thought I *had* rated it Rotten. I’ve corrected it now.

Tue, May 24, 2016 3:36am

Garrett is so much better a violinist than an actor, but he can’t be blamed for the histrionic qualities of the film–that would be mainly the director’s and scriptwriter’s fault.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  pfcwms
Tue, May 24, 2016 11:15pm

Which is who I blamed.

Robert P
Robert P
Mon, Oct 02, 2017 9:38pm

I just saw this recently. It’s too bad they couldn’t have pulled a more animated performance out of Garrett. On the plus side one of my cinematic pet peeves is actors doing fake-playing while depending on a musician’s overdubbed chops. I play trumpet and am making stumbling attempts at learning violin, I’d never heard of Garrett before. At least for once they had a musician in the lead doing his own playing. He was clearly really playing while filming though I don’t know how
much of the on-screen performances were the ones we were hearing. He
really tears up that Caprice 24. If only his acting had been stronger. Though given the historical shakiness and script, I wonder if it would have made a significant difference in critical assessment of the film.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Robert P
Thu, Oct 12, 2017 8:27pm

It’s hard to imagine even the world’s greatest actor saving this piece of junk.