During a future ice age, dying humanity occupies its remaining time by playing a board game called "Quintet." For one small group, this obsession is not enough; they play the game with living pieces ... and only the winner survives.
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In the distant future the world is in the grip of another ice age. A city originally built to house five million people is now in its death throes as the relentlessly advancing glacier is slowly crushing the metropolis's steel infrastructure. The relatively few surviving fur-clad inhabitants, perhaps thousands, perhaps only hundreds, drift aimlessly in their grim, drab world, awaiting their inevitable fate as they try to survive from day to day with scavenged firewood and minimal diet. Their only solaces are booza, an alcoholic drink distilled from moss, and Quintet, a seemingly innocuous board game for six players. The only other surviving mammals are roving packs of hungry mastiffs which roam the city's corridors and quickly dispose of the remains of the dead. Newly arrived from the south is Essex with his pregnant wife Vivia, seeking shelter in the doomed city only to find it populated by people middle-aged or older. They had supported themselves by hunting seals, but now that the ... Written by
I am one of those who was haunted by this film on first viewing and watched it for a second time soon afterward and understood - and appreciated - it far more as a result. It's often disingenuous to say that a film which so clearly divided opinion has to have something going for it but, in the case of Quintet, that is pleasingly true. By trawling the other comments about Quintet on the website, you can see that some people have a visceral dislike for the slow pace and unfolding of the film and a discontent with the actions and reactions of characters within it. Others point out that this is precisely the point of the film - it is profoundly nihilistic and demonstrates the breakdown of modern social conventions when a culture is forced to make a dramatic change to itself. Also, Quintet should be taken in the context of Marshall Mcluhan's comment: "the medium is the message". I wish I could claim this next comment as my own, because it's very perceptive, but it came from my then girlfriend: "This must have been what it was like for people in the last ice age, when just surviving was the priority and anything, even killing people, was a welcome break from the tedium". You see, Quintet isn't actually about how a society evolves to meet the challenges of environmental change; it's about how a society devolves to minimise the effect of environmental changes. Having watched this film again just last night, I agree even more with Altman's vision of where the human race is likely to go - I think he is remarkably prescient. Like 'Three Days of the Condor', this is a film that has, with the passing of time, become remarkably relevant to the world in which we live today.
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