Saturday 2 January 2016

A Late Quartet

"A Late Quartet" (Una fragile armonia) last night - about a famous musical quartet called the Fugue. Peter discovers Parkinson's, and has to retire. Robert, who is second violinist, suddenly decides he could also be first now and then, but his wife Juliet and first violinist Daniel disagree. Robert in anger is unfaithful to his wife, who discovers it and expels him from the house. Their beautiful violinist daughter, who is taking lessons from Daniel, begins an affair with Daniel. Juliet herself is described by her daughter as "serving three men": the one she is married to, the one she really loves, and the one who took care of her in her youth. The quartet is on the rocks. They manage to get together once again, thanks mainly to the girl who renounces her affair for the sake of the Fugue - quite unbelievable really.

Relationships, sexual and emotional needs, self-esteem and self-concept - all things that tend to play, in one way or another, in community life too, I suppose. What a confrere thinks of himself and of his capacities; what others think of him; what and how much they tell him of what they think of him; the consequences of telling and not telling, and of telling this much and not that. The music is affected by every such thing. There is no theology apart from the affective, intellectual, moral, religious interiority of the theologians. There is no formation, no community life apart from these either.

The IMDB site sums it up very well: the issues are death, egos and lust. But also: family or the lack of it (see the Alexandra-Juliette dialogue); self-esteem and self-concept (Robert, mostly); to tell or not to tell (Juliette); extreme passion for work to the detriment of life, even one's own (Daniel). The one who comes out best is the one facing death: Peter. Gracefully making way for another, not without pain. For the sake of the music. Daniel, who is the quintessential highly gifted artist, sees only the music and not the relationships, but in the end "lets go, gives in to his passions" (see the taunt by Robert) and makes things worse.

The kind of dynamic between Daniel and Alexandra is extremely interesting too: the impossibly sharp and demanding critique on the part of Daniel (would we ever be able to do that kind of thing and get away with it?), the arrogance and even self-assuredness of the girl (and in the end, she with a terribly low self-esteem because of childhood neglect by her parents), the way the man takes it; and then the mutual attraction, or at least the way the girl goes after the man (perhaps searching for a father?).

And the music: extraordinary. "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" (Kenneth Chisholm at

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