15 user 5 critic

Quartet (1981)

Marya finds herself penniless after her art dealer husband, Stephan, is convicted of theft. Marya accepts the hospitality of a strange couple, H.J. and Lois Heidler, who lets her live in their house.



(novel), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »

On Disc

at Amazon

Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »


Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

The Europeans (1979)
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

It's the mid-nineteenth century. Adult siblings Felix Young and Eugenia Munster were born and raised in Europe and have a somewhat bohemian lifestyle reflective of their travels throughout ... See full summary »

Director: James Ivory
Stars: Lee Remick, Robin Ellis, Wesley Addy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

Set during World War II, an upper-class family begins to fall apart due to the conservative nature of the patriarch and the progressive values of his children.

Director: James Ivory
Stars: Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Saundra McClain
Biography | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

In a small presbytery in Yorkshire, living under the watchful eyes of their aunt and father, a strict Anglican pastor, the Bronte sisters write their first works and quickly become literary sensations.

Director: André Téchiné
Stars: Isabelle Adjani, Marie-France Pisier, Isabelle Huppert
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 4.8/10 X  

Two teachers vie for the right to stage a play written by Jane Austen when she was twelve years old.

Director: James Ivory
Stars: Anne Baxter, Robert Powell, Michael Wager
Roseland (1977)
Drama | Music | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6/10 X  

"Roseland" is made up of three stories, sometimes connecting, all set in the famed New York dance palace, and all having the same theme: finding the right dance partner.

Director: James Ivory
Stars: Teresa Wright, Lou Jacobi, Don De Natale
Toxic Affair (1993)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 4.4/10 X  

A Christmas story. When boy-friend Georges dumps would-be writer and hypochondriac Pénélope, she goes through two days of horrible, self- centered pain: she asks her friend Sophie to help, ... See full summary »

Director: Philomène Esposito
Stars: Isabelle Adjani, Hippolyte Girardot, Clémentine Célarié
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

A Boston feminist and a conservative Southern lawyer contend for the heart and mind of a beautiful and bright girl unsure of her future.

Director: James Ivory
Stars: Christopher Reeve, Vanessa Redgrave, Jessica Tandy
Biography | Drama | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.7/10 X  

One of the obsessive speculations in American history is whether Thomas Jefferson, in the years before he became president, had an affair with (and fathered a child with) his 15-year-old ... See full summary »

Director: James Ivory
Stars: Nick Nolte, Greta Scacchi, Gwyneth Paltrow
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

Skirt Day is a fascinating psychological study, a socio-critical investigation - and Isabelle Adhani's first film in five years

Director: Jean-Paul Lilienfeld
Stars: Isabelle Adjani, Denis Podalydès, Yann Collette
Biography | Drama | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

Biography of Camille Claudel. Sister of writer Paul Claudel, her enthusiasm impresses already-famous sculptor Auguste Rodin. He hires her as an assistant, but soon Camille begins to sculpt ... See full summary »

Director: Bruno Nuytten
Stars: Isabelle Adjani, Gérard Depardieu, Madeleine Robinson
Heat and Dust (1983)
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

Anne is investigating the life of her grand-aunt Olivia, whose destiny has always been shrouded with scandal. The search leads back to the early 1920s, when Olivia, recently married to ... See full summary »

Director: James Ivory
Stars: Julie Christie, Greta Scacchi, Christopher Cazenove
Biography | Drama | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

Adèle Hugo's unrequited love for a lieutenant.

Director: François Truffaut
Stars: Isabelle Adjani, Bruce Robinson, Sylvia Marriott


Cast overview, first billed only:
Théo the Pornographer
Mme. Hautchamp
Armelia McQueen ...
Night Club Singer
Wiley Wood ...
Virginie Thévenet ...
Daniel Chatto ...
Miss Nicholson
Paulita Sedgwick ...
Sébastien Floche ...
Edouard Hautchamp


It's 1927 Paris. Following the conviction of her art dealer husband, Stephan Zelli, for theft for which he was handed a one-year prison sentence, Marya Zelli, originally from West India, moves in with her acquaintances, expatriate Brits H.J. and Lois Heidler. Marya knows that H.J. in particular has more in mind than just providing her lodging out of the goodness of his heart. From behind bars, Stephan encourages Marya to move in with them not knowing H.J.'s intentions. Marya agrees in part because she, being a foreigner, cannot get work and would thus become destitute otherwise. She learns she is the latest in a long line of lodgers. She also learns that H.J. and Lois' marriage is not all that it appears on the surface. The Heidler's hold on Marya becomes stronger when they convince her that Stephan not only has no money but has no future in France after his release. Their collective lives become more complicated when Stephan is released from jail and tries to figure out what he's ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Romance


R | See all certifications »


Official Sites:





Release Date:

25 October 1981 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Erotiko kouarteto  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The film takes place in 1924. See more »


Lois Heidler: I hate people who try to get by with nothing but their sensitivity.
See more »


Featured in The Wandering Company (1984) See more »


The 509
Arranged by Luther Henderson
Written by Richard Robbins (uncredited)
Performed by Armelia McQueen (uncredited)
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

a moderate Merchant Ivory Production
17 July 2016 | by (China) – See all my reviews

Literature cinema maestro James Ivory's 1981 Cannes admission, a film adaptation of Jean Rhys' novel QUARTET, as the name implies, it is a gamble with four participants, aka. two married couples.

In Paris, roaring 20s, the opening credits shift from one hotel to another, augurs the rootless fate of Marya Zelli (Adjani), a young and stunning beauty married to Stephan (Higgins), a handsome but self-interested Polish art dealer, who would soon be put behind the bars for his illegal deals, and leave Marya in penury out of the blue.

Then there is another couple, a wealthy middle-aged English art dealer H.J. Heidler (Bates) and his painter wife Lois (Smith), comes to Marya's rescue, although they only meet her once before, they insist that Marya should live with him under a ménage-à-trois fashion. Soon, we will know that Marya is not the first damsel-in-distress they timely lend a helping hand, a disreputable compromise has been mutually reached between Lois and H.J., as long as H.J. doesn't leave her, she will turn a blind eye on his affaire de coeur with young girls, even under the same roof, "we have a spare room in our apartment".

Marya is easily corrupted by the decadent lifestyle of the Heidlers and their expatriate clique, and after the tentative refusal of H.J.'s advances, she caves in after a bit but inwardly, she still hopes to leave with Stephan after he finishes his one-year sentence, financially dependent on H.J. and Lois, she is unable to make a clean slate even if she wants to. Meanwhile, Lois is also anguished about the inconvenient arrangement, wonders when H.J.'s infatuated phase will end, or this time, it could be herself that be superseded.

Men certainly don't look good in the story, when Stephan is released from the penitentiary, it seems that Marya has a tough call to make, but when everything is laid bare, she doesn't even have that option, on a less pungent note, Ivory invokes the misandry from Rhys' works, women are powerless, without exception, mistreated by men in their lives.

The narrative tweaks and jumps in an upbeat tempo, even when pathos should be evoked, the shot doesn't care to stick around, Ivory's formulaic direction banally basks in its silk-stocking milieu, the plush delicacy of its trimmings, with offbeat notification of a more risqué scenery. Luckily, the two female leads are as presentable as ever, Dame Maggie Smith (who would star in another film with the same name in 2012, a Dustin Hoffman elderly-skewing comedy QUARTET) rarely reveals her vulnerability in front the camera, showcases a master-class endeavour of breakdown which is needed to be GIFed. Adjani, impeccably gorgeous in her prime, and fluent in her bilingual dexterity, launches herself wholeheartedly in the torrent of trepidation, seduction, vacillation and desperation.

Alan Bates is miserly given a stage to justify H.J.'s eloquent equivocation in his immoral business, and Anthony Higgins, whose Stephan takes a back seat among the quartet due to his incarceration, however, flourishes in bringing out a more frank and unapologetic facade of his character although both Stephan and H.J. are equally bad eggs to their women, at least he manifests with a certain flair that's captivating and resolute. Finally, a footnote sends to Sheila Gish, who plays Lois' friend Anna and whose thunder has been stolen by that extraordinary-looking hippopotamus in the zoo. As one of the commodities from Merchant Ivory Productions, QUARTET doesn't represent the best collective results from the Merchant (producer)-Ivory (director)- Jhabvala (screenwriter) trinity, yet, a lavish take of Paris in the early 20th century is something not that common in their repertory, and a BluRay treatment should be taken into consideration in no sooner.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: