The intricate order of things in A Late Quartet, is, however strange, their truth. By Louis Rogers

After receiving the news of their cellist’s Parkinson's diagnosis, there’s another blow in store for the Fugue Quartet. Robert reveals he no longer wants to be stuck playing second violin, but wants his shot at leading the quartet. From the outside, the seriousness of the controversy this causes seems faintly eccentric. But we all live our lives within our own networks and hierarchies – familial, professional, social – which relate us to one another; codes that feel essential from within, but can look bizarre from without. I believe this is more or less what Michel Foucault called “the order of things”.

Between the members of the Fugue Quartet, professional, familial, pedagogical and romantic relationships overlap and feedback on one another. Watching the A Late Quartet is a continuous discovery of rivalries, affairs, tutorships, resentments, secret accords. It’s not until the last fifth of the film that one member is revealed to be the adoptive child of another. The melodrama and the sheer quantity of these interconnections lunges towards the ridiculous. And yet – thanks to understated, full-blooded acting – they never feel anything less than real. The intricate order of things is, however strange, their truth.

Part of the enjoyment offered by A Late Quartet is in this way of straining against credibility. It isn’t the subdued drama of Manhattan creatives it might first appear to be, but instead a lyrical composition of brazen dramatic notes. The film moves with the relentless pace demanded by the Beethoven quartet the Fugue are preparing – attacca; with no pauses. “What are we supposed to do?” Peter, the cellist, asks his students. “Stop? Or struggle to continuously adjust to one another up to the end, even if we are out of tune?”  


A Late Quartet is available to stream as part of TANK’s season SCULPTING IN TIME. Subscribe for just £3 a month for access to 40+ films throughout the year.