Opening 31 Oct 2013
“Paganini was the first rock star”, knows David Garrett, who portrays Niccolò Paganini in the film Der Teufelsgeiger (The Devil’s Violinist). He has always been fascinated by this exceptional artist and composer of the 19th century and convinced the producers to bring his story to the silver screen. It is clear that Garrett, an exceptional violinist himself, plays the main part as well as composing the film music together with Franck van der Heijden.
Paganini’s father was a strict teacher aiming for perfection, smothering any self-expression in his pupil. As the boy grows into a tall, good-looking man, the women adore him but the audience does not understand his innovative playing and make fun of him. When he cannot pay his hotel room, the mysterious Urbani (Jared Harris) takes over the bill. He proposes a devilish pact in return. Urbani is convinced of Paganini’s talent and offers to make him rich and famous if he will be his – but not in this life. In desperation the young musician agrees to anything. Urbani turns out to be as strict a “manager” as his father. This means, no more frolicking in bed for days but out onto the stage to play. With intrigues and taking advantage of Paganini’s growing popularity he books him to perform in London. Their arrival is shown in thick foggy images filmed in the Bavaria Studios. A mob of press reporters await them at the hotel, shouting women yield banners demonstrating against the womanizer. To avoid the commotion the party takes refuge in the house of the agent John Watson (Christian McKay) and his mistress Elisabeth Wells (Veronica Ferres). When Paganini hears the daughter of the house sing, he immediately falls in love with her. Charlotte Watson is played by the lovely Andrea Deck, gentle and innocent-looking like a true “English Rose”. This is in total contrast to his former playmates. Their mutual love for music draws them close. Both perform in front of a full house, and the restless Paganini for once seems really happy. This new development is not in the interest of Urbani, and he finds ways to interfere and spoil this tender love affair.
The film is not meant to be a true biography but shows the development of an eccentric and gifted musician. At the time it was a novelty to “play like the devil” with force and emotion. During the 1830s this kind of virtuosity and temperament was unheard of and therefore suspicious. It is David Garrett’s first film role, and he says “Paganini was a revolutionist – he is my big inspiration”. Garrett is said to be the world’s fastest violist (with 13 notes per second). His fans will be enjoying the music score as well as watching him on the big screen. (Birgit Schrumpf)