Quebec filmmaker François Girard weaves a tale of brotherhood in The Song of Names

Quebec filmmaker and director François Girard has been busy over the last decade.

The writer and director of Hochelaga, Land of Souls, Canada's official submission for the Oscars in 2017, Girard also directed a Cirque du Soleil show at Radio City Music Hall and launched a show at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

To cap off the decade, Girard has come out with a film adaptation of the novel Song of Names by Norman Lebrecht, screening in Montreal theatres beginning Christmas Day.

The film, starring Tim Roth and Clive Owen, tells the story of a Polish immigrant and violin virtuoso who goes missing after the Second World War.

Many years later, his adoptive brother and dear friend embarks on a search to find him. 

Sabrina Lantos/Serendipity Point Films

For Girard, the greatest challenge posed by the story was the fact it spans three different time periods, showing characters Martin and Dovidl as boys, young men and older adults.

"It's a film that's really intimate, in a way. It gets you really close to these characters that are always on screen," he said.

"My real challenge was finding the six actors playing two lead characters."

One of the actors is Luke Doyle, 13, a genuine violin prodigy who took on the role of young Dovidl.

Girard said that rather than choosing a young actor and faking the violin scenes, he selected a musician who could also express himself through acting.

"We're talking about an already accomplished artist," said Girard.

Music has been an important theme for Girard over the years. His film The Red Violin won an Oscar in 1999 for best original score, and his latest film has an original score by Oscar winner Howard Shore, known for his work on the Lord of the Rings franchise.

Girard said he was thrilled to be collaborating with Shore after following his work for years.

"We started working together two years prior to shooting," he said. "His career — I mean, it's oversized. You look at the list of Howard's accomplishments — it's unbelievable."

The Song of Names screens in Montreal starting Christmas Day and across Quebec, as of Jan. 10.