It is Camilla Long, writer for The Times who admits that “violins are not a subject that immediately piques my interest”, a sentiment which we can’t help but agree with. However, in the spirit of open-mindedness, we gave Sky Arts documentary, Janine Jansen: Falling for Stradivari a watch, and we were not disappointed. Sometimes great things come in small, violin-shaped packages.
The film is a little like a modern-day Homer’s Odyssey, but instead of battling mythical creatures, Dutch violin virtuoso, Janine Jansen sets off on a quest to record a studio album, using twelve different violins all made by Antonio Stradivari (1644 – 1737).
For some context, Stradivarius is a little like the Gucci of the violin world, with the violins selling for as much as 200 million dollars. Yikes. Whilst we wouldn’t want our clumsy fingers going anywhere near these works of art, they are in safe and nimble hands with Jansen, who strums the violin like Lionel Messi plays a football.
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The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw sees a huge level of “intelligence and connoisseurship in this documentary”, won over by Jansen’s “rather remarkable personality” and the overwhelming nature of her “mastery of [the] instrument, and the fineness and the delicacy of her response to each Stradivarius”.
Bradshaw describes how the film tenderly portrays Jansen as “candid, open and unpretentious, no false modesty, no false anything”, something which Long identifies in the structure of the documentary itself. Longstates “if the skill in documentary is letting the key information arise organically, this was a masterly example”.
With so many murders, deceits and detective investigations constantly clogging up the box, the organic feeling of this documentary is like a breath of fresh air, a frolicking breeze to blow away the cobwebs and give us an hour and a half of chilled and cheerful entertainment.
There are no deaths and no nail-biting police pursuits. Just one woman, twelve violins and a whole lot of talent.
First shown in October 2021 (and in cinemas in September 2021)