Synopsis

After a classical string quartet’s 25 years of global success, its cellist and older member Peter decides that he must retire when he learns he has Parkinson’s Disease. For the others, that announcement proves a catalyst for letting their hidden resentments come to the surface while the married members’ daughter has disruptive desires of her own. All this threatens to tear the group apart even as they are famous for playing Beethoven’s String Quartet No.14, opus 131, a piece that is played non-stop no matter how life interferes. An emotionally uplifting drama with remarkable performances from Christopher Walken, Catherine Keener, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Imogen Poots, A Late Quartet depicts explores the beauty of music and life-long relationships.

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Director

Yaron Zilberman
Director's statement: I first came up with the idea for A Late Quartet while traveling with Watermarks, the film I had just completed. I wanted my next film to be an intense relationship drama which explored the complex iconic bonds formed between parents and their children, between siblings and longterm married couples. As an avid fan of chamber music since my teens, I thought that the close knit dynamic between the members of a string quartet could be the ideal setting for this journey. Becoming an established string quartet involves years of intimate, intense rehearsals and performances, punctuated by frequent arguments over every note and every sentiment. While each individual has the potential to star as a soloist, their success is dependent on their ability to rise above their egos and complement each other despite their individual differences. Arnold Steinhardt, the first violinist of the legendary Guarneri String Quartet describes a string quartet as “Four people let their individual personalities shine while finding a unified voice... endless musings, discussions, criticism that... end up as an interpretation”. In A Late Quartet, I aimed to explore the delicate balance required to achieve a gratifying relationship dynamic, one that frees the individual to ascend to his or her highest potential while remaining a significant contributing member of a team—gapping the tension between the individual and the group, between the I and the We. To anchor the film musically, I chose, as its centrepiece, Beethoven’s groundbreaking and favourite quartet Opus 131 in C-sharp minor. A striking element of the composition is that Beethoven indicated it should be played ‘attacca’, without a pause between its seven movements. When playing a piece for almost 40 minutes without a break, the instruments are bound to go out of tune, each in a completely different way. What should the musicians do? Stop somewhere midway and tune, or struggle to adapt their pitch, individually and as a group, until the very end? I feel it is a perfect metaphor for long-term relationships, inevitably challenged and demanding a constant need for readjustment and such fine-tuning because of the myriad ways we change over long periods of time. Musically speaking, Opus 131 takes us on an emotional roller-coaster ranging from the deepest valleys of inner contemplation to the cathartic peaks of explosive energy. To further ground the script in the world of quartet musicians, I filmed the Juilliard School’s Attacca String Quartet for several months; they were coached by some of the world’s most prominent chamber musicians, as they learned Opus 131. For further research, I filmed the Brentano String Quartet, one of the leading string quartets working today (who later provided the music for the score), as they played Opus 131 in front of five cameras—an invaluable experience in helping define the cinematic style of the film and prepare the actors for their role as musicians.

Cast

Philip Seymour Hoffman: Robert Gelbart Christopher Walken: Peter Mitchell Catherine Keener: Juliette Gelbart Mark Ivanir: Daniel Lerner Imogen Poots: Alexandra Gelbart


Details

DVD catalogue number: CFW645DVD Blu-ray catalogue number: CFW075BD

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Out now on DVD, Blu-ray & on demand

GENRE: Drama, Music

CERTIFICATE: 15

DIRECTOR: Yaron Zilberman

CAST:
Philip Seymour Hoffman: Robert Gelbart
Christopher Walken: Peter Mitchell
Catherine Keener: Juliette Gelbart
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DURATION: 106 Mins

COUNTRIES: USA

LANGUAGES: English

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Reviews


  • “Insightful and incandescent, this is a film for both music lovers and movie lovers”

    Nigel Andrews, Financial Times


  • “A movie with clarity and grownup complexity”

    Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

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