Few films have the power to bring me to tears. 1987’s The Touch of the Master’s Hand is one of them – and it’s only 18 minutes long!
There is something majestic and beautiful about this film that makes me fall in love with it from the opening sequence. I saw it a number of times as a child, but I didn’t understand its significance until I saw it again as a teenager. Like everyone, I imagine, I experienced many heartaches in childhood and young adulthood. It was a struggle to keep going some days. If you ever reach a low point in your life where you wonder “why bother?” this is the film for you.
I love how the film begins with the master’s creation of a violin. He works meticulously on each part of the instrument until finally it is completed. He doesn’t stop there, though. He demonstrates that not only is he a master at creating violins, but he is also an expert violinist. He plays a lovely tune that shows what the violin is capable of in the right hands. The tune is filled with hope and fun, befitting the new violin’s limitless possibilities. He carefully places it into a case and bids it farewell.
Unfortunately, the violin’s first owner is not as gentle with it or as skilled as the master. It’s a child who struggles to learn how to play the violin for the first time at his mother’s request. In the boy’s hands, the violin makes horrible, off-key sounds that grate on the ears. He soon learns to resent the violin because his mother keeps making him practice with it. The violin gets knocked around, dropped off a piano, and used as a bow for toy arrows until one of its strings breaks under the pressure.
All of this misuse takes a toll on the poor instrument as it is abandoned, sold for cheap at pawn shops, and passed from uncaring hand to uncaring hand until one day it finally arrives at an auction. The scarred and beaten violin is the one thing in the auction that nobody cares about. It takes a long time to get someone to bid just $1 for it. The auctioneer has barely been able to get the bid up to $3 for it when the master comes forward and restores the violin to working order before playing a hauntingly sublime tune that matches its painful life. Everyone in the crowd is touched by the power the violin possesses. It was just waiting for the right hand to make sweet music with it.
Once the playing ends, the bidding begins at $1,000 and eventually ends at $3,000! The value of the violin increased a thousand-fold thanks to this one change – that the people looked past its rough exterior to see what it was truly capable of.
Immediately after this auction scene is a montage that always brings a tear to my eye because the film finally lays bare its message. The violin represents any man or woman who has felt unloved or stricken with sin, misery, or other scars that they think are impossible to recover from. My heart goes out to all of the homeless men we see walking the streets, smoking, drinking, and giving up on life. One man is about to end his life by jumping off an overpass onto a busy highway. A group of heartless onlookers jeer and yell at him to jump. He is just about to heed their words, but the master comes and stops him by helping him to see his value. There’s no need to continue selling himself cheap when he is worth so much more.
The final montage of the film shows the master’s hands gently going over every inch of the battered violin to restore it to its original glory. Its deep cuts and scratches are smoothed over and covered with varnish until it is almost unrecognizable from its previous self. You would never know it had suffered such a terrible life. Not only can the master show what the instrument can do in his hands, but he can change its outward appearance to once again reflect its inner greatness.
Clearly there is a hopeful lesson in here for anyone struggling with damaged self-worth, whether self-inflicted or involuntary. I hope you can see that there is a divine spark within you just waiting for the master’s touch to bring out.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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Beautiful. Thanks for sharing your insights.
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