Hurdy-gurdy Films

This is a listing of the movies, films and video footage that feature the hurdy-gurdy in some way.

Please contact us if you have comments, additions, corrections or questions about this page. The contributor or source is noted if we haven't seen it the movie, including Scott Williams' The Bagpipes go to the Movies page, which is denoted [SW]. Thanks to the Internet Movie Database for filling in the details. Contributors include Dewey Franklin [DF], Fekke de Jager [FJ], Gene Pace [GP], Katie Roe [KR] and Thomas Slye [TS] .

The Movies

The Black Robe
1991, directed by Bruce Beresford. A Canadian film about French Jesuit missionaries in Canada in the 17th century, and their interactions with the Algonquins. Features Daniel Thonon and Denis Plante of Ad Vielle Que Pourra, and Gilles Plante was a music consultant. [GP] There's a campfire scene where the hurdy-gurdy is clearly visible and audible.

Captains Courageous
1937, b/w. Spencer Tracy plays Manuel, a Portuguese fisherman who befriends a spoiled young boy on a fishing boat. Manuel plays a very nice French style hurdy-gurdy, but the sound is dubbed in by the orchestra. (Tracy sometimes sets the instrument down with a heart-rending "thump".) A number of people say that this film is what got them interested in the instrument, including English builder Chris Eaton. Another notable player and maker who got started with this film is Marcello Bono, who saw the Italian-language version Capitani coraggiosi.

2000, directed by Lasse Hallström, with Juliette Binoche, Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, Lena Olin. This is a delightful film about a chocolatier who moves to a small French village with her daughter. There is a scene towards the end of the movie where a hurdy-gurdy is seen very briefly. Sadly, it's over in the blink of an eye - it was only by advancing frame by frame that I saw it at all.

The Duellists
1977, directed by Ridley Scott, with Keith Carradine, Tom Conti, and Albert Finney. There is a scene in an inn with two women playing lutebacked hurdy-gurdies. [DF]

The Four Musketeers (The Revenge of Milady)
1975, directed by Richard Lester, with Oliver Reed, Raquel Welch, Richard Chamberlin. There is a tavern scene with a hurdy-gurdy and bagpipe duo. [SW]

Flesh and Blood
1985, directed by Paul Verhoeven. Also released as The Rose and the Sword. With Rutger Hauer and Jennifer Jason Leigh. This is a somewhat gruesome and explicit look at the late Middle Ages, following the exploits of a band of mercenaries. There is a brief view of a hurdy-gurdy in a street scene, and you don't get to hear it because of the surrounding commotion. Later in the film you see one of the mercenaries appearing to be playing it, with a well-recorded soundtrack dubbed in. There's even some nice dog technique, which may not have been in period for the film. Thanks to Katie Roe [KR] for the update.

Heart of Glass
1976, directed by Werner Herzog, in German with English subtitles. This very odd movie is about the trials of a small village with a glassworks where a particular type of glass is made, to which the secret recipe has been lost. There is a scene in the tavern where a man plays a poorly tuned hurdy-gurdy.

Jeu de Daniel
This is a wonderful television broadcast of a medieval mystery play. It was believed to have been performed by the Clemencic Consort, with hurdy gurdy player Bernard Blanc. The program was televised in Europe in 1978 or 1979. [FJ]

Les Maitres Sonneurs
Features hurdy-gurdy and bagpipes. [SW] This is the name of a novel by George Sand, who was a patron of the vielle. I don't know whether the movie bears any resemblance to the book.

Directed by Claude Lelouche, with Patrick DeWaere as Moliere. Somewhere in the film there is quite a long scene with hurdy-gurdy player Rene Zosso performing. [FJ]

Name of the Rose
1986, directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud. Nigel Eaton plays on the soundtrack, though the hurdy-gurdy is never more than a drone sound as far as we can determine. The movie and soundtrack are quite eerie, depicting the quest of a Franciscan monk (Sean Connery) and his novice (Christian Slater) to discover the dark secrets of a Benedictine abbey.

Petite Paudete
Features hurdy-gurdy and bagpipes. [SW]

The Rose and the Sword
See Flesh and Blood.

The Song Remains the Same
1976, directed by Peter Clifton and Joe Massot. This is a concert film of Led Zeppelin playing at Madison Square Garden, interspersed with some artsy concept footage by each of the band members and their manager. There's a very short sequence of Jimmy Page sitting by a pond surrounded by various instruments. He's playing a hurdy-gurdy, but it's resting on the ground, and it sounds as if he didn't tune it completely.

1994. This is footage from the live MTV performance and MTV videos by ex-Led Zeppelin musicians Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. Their band includes British hurdy-gurdy player Nigel Eaton, who plays on three songs on the video. The hurdy-gurdy isn't really featured in the video: when you can hear it, you can't see it, and the few times you get a brief glimpse of it, you can't really hear it. I have heard recordings from the subsequent concert tour where it's much more prominant. The bootleg videos I've seen show Nigel playing his solo during the concert, but aren't of a quality that lets the viewer really see the instrument or his technique.

The Visitors
1993, released in France as Les Visiteurs, directed by Jean-Marie Poir. Set in 1122, where a knight (Jean Reno) and his squire (Christian Clavier) are transported to the 20th century. Before they leave, there is a scene with two people playing an organistrum. [TS] This film is classic French farce.

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Alden and Cali Hackmann
Olympic Musical Instruments

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