An allegorical resistance film from Mexico, The Violin was inspired by the incredible true story of violinist Carlos Prieta. In the dramatization, Don Plutarco (Angel Tavira) goes to his village daily to play his violin for the captain and steal munitions for the resistance.
The film begins with a view of the rape and torture perpetrated by the military. These governmentally supported brutalities permeate the farmlands almost as thoroughly as does the underground resistance. Like the folkloric stories of revolution, the resistance finds its place in cantinas, living on through songs and notes from visitor to visitor.
Plutarco, the film’s hero, is an elderly, one-handed violinist. He plays in an impromptu band with his guitarist son and grandson. They travel to the city for two-day stints as street musicians, and it’s there they get information about the resistance, procure weaponry and make a meager living.
On their return trip they find their village has been violently seized by armed forces. Most of the men are dead, many of the women have been taken, and all of the villager’s homes have been ransacked. In hopes of finding his daughter-in-law, Plutarco buys a mule from a corrupt patron and goes to his village. Over time, the charming old farmer beguiles the captain who, as a child, dreamed of learning music. As insurance he must leave his violin with the captain nightly. In the meantime, he smuggles munitions for his son who hides with the resistance.
A poetic character, Plutarco moves at a snail's pace and with such deliberation that all of his actions offer the story a sense of perpetuity—it’s as if he has always been. He lovingly protects his grandson from the dangerous truth and tells him campfire fables about the struggle of the “honest against the powerful” while those who surround him respect his strength and protect his frailty.
But the black-and-white cinematography of the film is, at times, oppressive. We never leave the starkness of the imagery even when we see moments of peace, sunrises or expanses of forest. One always feels that the world of the film (and, presumably, the world of rural Mexico) could be endlessly beautiful if opposition and violence didn’t constantly polarize it.
Distributor: Film Movement
Cast: Angel Tavira, Dagoberto Gama, Gerardo Taracena and Fermin Martinez
Director/Screenwriter/Producer: Francisco Vargas
Genre: Political drama; Spanish-language, subtitled
Running time: 98 min.
Release date: December 5, 2007 NY