Going to the cinema is something I have always just done, the idea of it being an experience in the same way that going to the theatre is something that belonged to a bygone age. It is somewhat fitting then that Quartet, the film I went to see yesterday is about older people.
The first indication this was going to be a different trip to the cinema came when we walked in. We knew it was going to be quite busy being a bank holiday and the films first day of general release and so got there a good five minutes or so before the trailers were due to start. We were somewhat taken aback by the scene that greeted us, the middle section of the upper, sloped tier was completely full except for two single seats which were miles apart and the only seats available at the sides were a few right at the side. The audience was almost entirely made up of people my fathers age dressed in middle class smart casual clothing. This was a theatre audience, rather than the mix you usually encounter within a cineplex.
The film itself was wonderful. The story is simple but captivating and very funny in that very English way which is gentle but cheeky and also intelligent whilst simple.
Quartet is set in a home for retired musicians and so music is an important aspect to the film. It has a soundtrack which is varied but beautiful. There is a really interesting bit within it when a group of school children come to the home and the similarities and differences between opera and rap are discussed.
The central characters, the Quartet ,are played by Dame Maggie Smith, Sir Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly and Pauline Collins and there are a host of other familiar faces within the film which was directed by Dustin Hoffman. The professionalism and depth of experience of these actors shows but so does something deeper, friendship and respect between many of the cast. Whilst there is clearly high quality acting going on there is some aspect to it which seems to go beyond the putting on of a mask or getting into a character, it’s almost like the play is enabling a sharing of deeper wisdom which is coming from somewhere deeper within on occasion. The writing from Ronald Harwood is exquisite and the humour is great.
For me two actresses stood out in their performances and they were Pauline Collins and Sheridan Smith. Pauline Collins had perhaps the most complex character to perform; Cissy the woman she played was in the early stages of a degenerative disease (not clear if dementia or Alzheimer’s). Sheridan Smith played the doctor who ran the home, a mature and sensitive woman. This contrasted so heavily with alot of the tv comedy I have seen Smith in and it was her ability to play a more serious role that impressed me. This is a talented individual who has clearly grown up and is now a brilliant character actress.
As you can tell I absolutely loved this film and so, it seemed, did the rest of the audience. There was a ripple of a round of applause as the film finished. We then all filed out after watching up to a certain point in the credits. This again defied modern convention, to some extent, rather than having that rush for the door people did wander out in the same way as within a theatre and for the first time I was able to catch the architecture of the screen and how it is designed as a theatre with its lighting and colours. It really was more like going to a matinee performance at the theatre than going to see a film. I loved this experience, it added to the magic of the film.
Oh and for anybody wondering why a gentle English comedy is a 12A it contains a couple, and only a couple of incidences of the F word which are wonderfully delivered by Maggie Smith and fully in keeping with the film.