The Violin Player begins with existential crisis, shifts into marital melodrama and ends as kind of morality play, evoking both Chloe Zhao’s The Rider [also screened at HIFF 2018] and Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash [HIFF 2014] at different intervals. […] [T]he film poses a terrifying question – what happens when one’s fixed self-identity crumbles?
[Matleena] Kuusniemi plays Karin, an internationally acclaimed concert violinist so singularly focused that even her birthday cake is shaped like a violin. A car accident early on leaves her with drastic nerve damage on her right hand, so bad that she can never play again.
Much of The Violin Player’s powerful first third plays like a sophisticated European Yin to The Rider’s cowboy Yang, burrowing into Karin’s suddenly unmoored sense of self and tracing out the crises that evokes. Married to doting [Jaakko] (Samuli Edelmann) and owner of a lakefront estate straight out of a lifestyle magazine, Karin slowly suffocates at the prospect of a comfortable, concert-free life. Her fresh burst of air arrives in the guise of Antti (Olavi Uusivirta), a twentysomething conservatory student with whom she quickly begins an affair.
Technical specs remain solid throughout, and the choice to forgo an original score for existing musical sources lends the film an appealing high-culture heft.
Ben Croll, Screen Daily