I absolutely love Maggie Smith- so I had to see her new movie, the Dustin Hoffman-directed Quartet. The film has an incredible British cast (headed by Mags of course) and an amazing soundtrack. I also noted its magnificent filming location that I felt fit the themes and characters of the film perfectly. So I’m going to devote a little post to the filming locations of Quartet.
To begin with, the whole idea of the movie is that an elderly opera diva returns amongst her old friends at a retirement home for musicians, the fictional Beecham House. Amongst these old comrades, are the other members of a one-time famous quartet that includes her ex-husband. If I had another favorite in the film, it would have to be the amazingly versatile Pauline Collins. Her performance as the lovable Cissy puts an adorable face on the often-uncomfortable moments of elderly senility.
As far as plots go, Quartet is fairly predictable; but it has a refreshing dialogue, an all-star cast and a lot of enjoyable performances by these incredible actors and musicians. I discovered that lots of the “residents” of Beecham House were actually retired musicians and singers and the genuine talent portrayed on screen was very much appreciated by me.
I discovered after leaving the theater that Dustin Hoffman directed Quartet at Hedsor House in Buckinghamshire, which is about an hour outside of London. I read into the history a little bit and what I discovered was that it was a property with an esteemed history. It seems that King George III originally had the home commissioned and it was designed by Sir William Chambers. The house tragically burnt down in the 1860s and was restored and basically rebuilt in an “Italian villa” style. The focus of the new renovation is usually the grand domed hall with the great staircase. If you saw the film, it’s the location of Jean’s triumphant arrival to Beecham House.
Hedsor House has since been renovated a few more times. During the Victorian times, I think things might have gotten out of hand a little stylistically, but since then, restorations have favored a truly magnificently elegant Georgian look.
I simply adore Georgian-style anything and even though I promised at the beginning of the blog that I wouldn’t concentrate on architecture- I just loved this elegant home so much. I felt the house itself fit in so well with the cast and the tones of the movie: very British, very smart, and very classy- even in moments of potential vulgarity. I feel that filming locations have been very well-used recently. The setting of the film should fit with your theme, or at least the tones of your film, so that it creates a seamless piece. I feel that Quartet accomplished this task with aplomb.
Also of note is that the home sits on a huge property. Bordering it is a lovely old Norman Church that was also featured in the film. St. Nicholas’ of Hedsor has one of the finest Victorian-renovated interiors in the area and it is an absolutely lovely Church. It also has that unique and genuine British feel. I don’t know about you, but this type of English church situated in a quaint little English village always makes me think of Miss Marple… which just makes me happy.
If you didn’t get it already: I enjoyed Quartet. Not for its quick-moving plot or crazy gimmicks, but because it was unique, it was incredibly well done, it was genuine and it was so truly British. For me, it was a refreshing change to find in the movies.