Watch Quartet

  • R
  • 1981
  • 1 hr 41 min
  • 6.2  (1,823)
  • 62

Quartet is a film adaptation of the Jean Rhys novel of the same name, directed by James Ivory, a filmmaker known for his nuanced and elegant period pieces. Released in 1981, the film is set in 1920s Paris and offers a rich exploration of complex relationships, passion, and the often-blurred line between love and exploitation. The star-studded cast includes Isabelle Adjani, Maggie Smith, Alan Bates, and Anthony Higgins, with each actor delivering a compelling performance that captures the essence of their characters and the period.

Isabelle Adjani plays the role of Marya "Mado" Zelli, a young and vulnerable woman navigating life in the bohemian circles of Paris. Marya's artistic inclinations and her delicate beauty draw the attention of many, making her both admired and the object of desire. Her life takes a dramatic turn when her Polish husband, Stephan Zelli, portrayed by Anthony Higgins, is imprisoned for theft. Left with little money and no support system, Marya's situation becomes increasingly precarious as she struggles to sustain herself amidst the chaos of Parisian life.

Enter the Heidlers, a sophisticated and seemingly benevolent English couple who offer Marya refuge during this tumultuous time. Maggie Smith plays the role of Lois Heidler, a woman whose sharp wit and complex emotions are masked by her refined and controlled exterior. Maggie Smith's performance is nuanced, revealing the layers of her character's personality and her own profound sense of insecurity. Her husband, H.J. Heidler, is played by Alan Bates, a painter whose charm and artistic temperament conceal a more predatory nature. Alan Bates adeptly captures Heidler's charisma, as well as the darkness lurking beneath it.

Drawn into the Heidler's labyrinthine world, Marya discovers that the assistance they provide comes at a price. The film delves into the dynamics of power and dependence, as Marya becomes the focal point of an intense and emotionally charged ménage à trois. The Quartet's narrative is one of seduction and betrayal, as well as the struggle of a young woman to find her identity and autonomy in a society that often objectifies and manipulates.

James Ivory's direction is meticulous and evocative, successfully transporting the viewer to the Jazz Age in Paris. The film is beautifully shot, with attention paid to the atmospheric settings, the fashion of the time, and the subtle gestures and expressions that convey the characters' complex internal worlds. The Paris of Quartet is a character in its own right—a city of lights and shadows, where the glitz and glamour of the artistic elite stand in stark contrast to the underbelly of poverty and despair.

The screenplay, written by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, ensures that the essence of Rhys's novel is retained while adapting it to the visual medium. The dialogue is sharp and poignant, carrying the emotional weight of the scenes without becoming verbose or didactic. Through careful pacing and attention to detail, the film succeeds in weaving a story that is at once specific to its time and place, while also touching on universal themes that resonate across eras.

The supporting cast of Quartet complements the main performances well, with each actor adding to the tapestry of interwoven lives and desires. The somber tones of the film are periodically lifted by moments of genuine connection and levity, allowing the viewer to breathe before being plunged back into the intensity of the characters' interactions.

In terms of its overarching themes, Quartet does not shy away from delving into the darker side of human relationships. It explores how people use and manipulate each other for personal gain or pleasure, as well as the ways in which individuals can be driven by their own vulnerabilities and desires. At the same time, the film examines the resilience of the human spirit and the capacity for individuals to withstand and potentially overcome the adversities that life throws their way.

Overall, Quartet is a richly textured exploration of love, betrayal, and survival. It provides an evocative snapshot of a particular moment in history and showcases the talents of its distinguished cast, all brought together under the expert direction of James Ivory. Whether one is drawn to period dramas, character studies, or stories of emotional complexity, Quartet offers a cinematic experience that is both intellectually stimulating and profoundly moving.

Quartet is a 1981 drama with a runtime of 1 hour and 41 minutes. It has received moderate reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 6.2 and a MetaScore of 62.

Where to Watch Quartet
Quartet is available to watch free on Tubi TV and Kanopy. It's also available to stream, download and buy on demand at Amazon Prime, Apple TV Channels, The Roku Channel, Amazon, Google Play and Vudu. Some platforms allow you to rent Quartet for a limited time or purchase the movie and download it to your device.
  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 41 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    6.2  (1,823)
  • Metascore