The plot centers on a peculiar violin with a distinctive carved scroll, and the tale behind how it changed hands. The events of the film start amidst the Prague Spring but mainly take place in World War II-era Czechoslovakia.
Although an Italian production, the film is entirely in English, and involves English and French actors. Music is the central theme, and the film culminates in the performance of a violin concerto, Concerto Romantico Interrotto written by Italian film composer Ennio Morricone.
The film won five David di Donatello Awards (Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Production Design, Best Score and a special "Scuola David Award") and three Silver Ribbons (Best Cinematography, Best Editing and Best Score).