Deep in the recesses of my brain are bits and pieces of the thousands of hours of television and movies I watched as a kid. Brief clips of David & Goliath, that staple of Sunday morning cartoons, merge with the opening credits of Battle of the Planets and the theme song to Casper the Friendly Ghost.
I have vivid memories of one particular movie and recently spent some time trying to track down a copy. It was a short film called The Violin, and I remember my dad showing it to us using a school projector. We had a copy of the book that accompanied the movie, and I’m sure I read it dozens of times. The book has long since disappeared, and I hadn’t seen the movie in probably 25 years.It took a bit of searching, but I finally came across some information about The Violin. It turns out it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film back in 1974. The old man was played by Maurice Solway, who enjoyed a long career as a professional violinist and composer in Toronto. Despite the pedigree, actual copies of the movie seem to be rare.
Perhaps it’s just nostalgia, but I find the movie incredibly moving. I identify with the two boys in the movie – with their blond hair, it’s not hard to picture them as me and my brother, or my own two boys (and in a funny coincidence, I share my first name with both of the young actors). It’s easy to recall the excitement of saving coins in a glass jar to buy a treasure you’ve seen in the store window (something I still do), or the disappointment you feel when it turns out the object of your desire is out of reach.
Most of all, I am touched by the relationship between the old man and the boys. I see him as a father figure, patient and generous with his time, passing on a love for music. The fact that he leaves at the end without really saying goodbye, and the image of him rowing away by himself as the two boys watch from the shore, hits close to home.
Maybe one day I’ll find a better copy of the movie, perhaps even an old film version that I can screen for my boys using an old school projector. In the meantime, this version will have to do.