Three major uses of music in film (thematic, soundtrack and contextual) come together in writer and director Zilberman’s feature debut.
As members of the world famous Fugue quartet, cellist Peter (Walken), first violin Daniel (Ivanir), second violin Robert (Hoffman) and his wife Juliette (Keener) have played together for over 20 years. When Peter is diagnosed with Parkinsons, the fine balance between control and passion essential to the quartet’s performance begins to crumble.
Zilberman brings an astonishing empathy with and understanding of music (in particular a late Beethoven string quartet, opus 131) to bear on the unraveling of the quartet’s disciplined counterpoint, using the playing and practicing of music in a group as a sounding board for life’s essentials: mortality and transcendence, loyalty and lust, hubris and humility.
Set within the carefully orchestrated contrast of a winter wonderland New York and warm interiors reflected in polished instruments, the movie only occasionally undercuts its own tone by trying too hard to exploit the emotional potential of its many relationships. In terms of inspirational performances on screen and on instruments, it’s hard to fault.
A Late Quartet | Directed by Yaron Zilberman (USA 2012) with Christopher Walken, Mark Ivanir, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener. Starts May 2