This film is fascinating on several levels. First, the viewer gets an inside look at a highly creative, extremely disciplined, classical music string quartet in rehearsal, in performance, traveling together, and at home with their families.
Second, we learn a great deal about the internal dynamics of a `team' with a mission - quality performance of a very demanding musical genre that requires cooperation, dedication, discipline, and the total love of what one is doing.
Third, we learn something about the nature of personal relationships, writ large, times four minimally, and more if one includes, as one must, the families of the musicians. We learn what relationships of High Fidelity require, their rewards, and their sometimes all too painful costs. In one particularly moving scene, for example, we see the pain in the face and body language, and hear it in the words, of violist Michael Tree discussing his desire to play, sometimes, the violin rather than the viola in concert. He is speaking with fellow members Arnold Steinhardt and David Soyer. They do not seem to understand Tree's desire. And at least in the film, his desire goes unrealized. In another case, we hear the pleading of violinist Arnold Steinhardt that the quartet perform a piece of music he loves. His feelings are not shared, to say the least, by the other members of the quartet.
Finally, and unexpectedly for me at least, we learn something about democracy, that it is built solidly, unequivocally, and constitutionally on compromise. We learn that in a democracy one is required to speak his or her mind, to give his or her opinion, to argue his or her case, and be unconditionally prepared to lose, and not leave.
This story is not about a lonely artist in a garret. It is about four men who have an overwhelming desire to do something that requires they cooperate with each other - even when it hurts, as it often does. And it is not all about pain. The music, oh the music! What exquisite music these men make together!