“A Late Quartet” opens on an empty stage, where an audience waits expectantly for the concert to begin. The string quartet enters the stage, bows, and takes their seats. Each member of the quartet exchanges glances with the others, and they begin the piece that in many ways determines the subtle commentary of the entire film : Beethoven’s Opus 131, String Quartet No. 14.
“A Late Quartet” is a tremendous story of stark revelations and emotional duress as The Fugue, a string quartet based in New York City who played together for 25 years and traveled around the globe performing over 3000 concerts, undergoes a change in the members. Christopher Walken plays Peter Mitchell, the cellist of the group, who begins to develop early symptoms of Parkinson’s, which disable him from playing the cello to his standard of performance and artistic mastery. With the challenge of finding a suitable replacement for Peter the group ruptures under stress, and as the group dynamic begins to change, so do the working relationships of its members. Robert Gelbart (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), the second violinist of The Fugue, begins to question his place in the group and why he never plays the solos of the first violin. Juliette Gelbart (Catherine Keener), the wife of Robert and the violist, tries desperately to maintain equilibrium in the quartet whilst watching her marriage fall apart and her daughter fall away from her. Mark Ivanir plays Daniel Lerner, perfectionist and first violinist, who begins a relationship with Robert and Juliette’s daughter, his best violin student. When the survival of the quartet is threatened, all these twists and turns must be ignored and quieted, and the end of the film turns a new leaf for The Fugue and its members as things fall back into their rightful place.
A stunning and visceral film, “A Late Quartet” exploits the inner workings of a string quartet forced to maintain a professional face to their public. Although the length of the film is less than an hour and 45 minutes, the film is masterfully constructed and beautifully produced. With the virtuoso performance of Christopher Walken and the captivating interweaving of music and story, “A Late Quartet” commands the emotional attention of its audiences and is a pleasure to watch and enjoy.
“A Late Quartet” is directed by Yaron Zilberman. Written by Seth Grossman and Yaron Zilberman. Starring Christopher Walken, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Imogen Poots, and Mark Ivanir. Produced by Opening Night Productions, RKO Pictures, Concept Entertainment, Unison Films, and Spring Pictures. Wide release on November 9th, 2012.