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Music Box More at IMDbPro »

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38 out of 42 people found the following review useful:

Qualified to speak on the performances

Author: msemmett from Georgia
4 July 2003

I was astounded in reading the comments on these films to see people saying that Armin Muehler-Stall's character is flat and empty.Also, those that say his angry outbursts are not threatening.

My father is a Hungarian immigrant who I have wondered where he has a similar "true story". I can say from personal experience that Armin's performances are consistent with my father's outbursts and for me personally were terrifying when seeing the movie.

In terms of the generalization that the performance was "flat", there is a cold, clinical, almost sociapathic sense to some elderly Hungarians. Additionally, I found Jessica Lange's performance COMPLETELY believeable as someone raised under such strong expectations and often silent or restrained about true expressions of emotion or fear.

That's my two cents. DO NOT underestimate the ACCURACY of this film.

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24 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

You rock, Mr. Costa Gavras!

Author: Nirankush Mukherjee from Stoneham, MA
15 September 2004

Awright, I don't approve of all your politics, Mr. Costa Gavras, particularly in "State of Siege" and "Hanna K.", but in this one you truly excel, both in terms of authenticity and a willingness to stay unprovocative when dealing with a sensitive issue as the Holocaust.

The movie is supposed to have been inspired by the real-life case of John Demjanjuk, an Ohio resident accused of war crimes at Treblinka and Sobibor, extradited to Israel for trial in the mid 80's. The movie even has a brief reference to this Demjanjuk guy when someone tries to pronounce his complicated last name in a conversation with Jessica Lange. Costa Gavras seems to be intrigued by our very perception of the Holocaust and our ambivalent approach toward it. Lawyer Ann Talbot's Hungarian-born father is accused of war crimes, her ex-father-in-law is somewhat scornful towards the inviolability of the Holocaust, and even had drinks with "those monsters" when the West used ex-Nazis as spies against Communism. Not to mention the difficulty of prosecuting war crimes 40 odd years later when justice can be won by either concocted evidence or the cunning of legal argument, and historical truth becomes less important.

The courtroom scenes and dialogues are truly remarkable in their restraint, and give the viewer just enough background as is needed about the atrocities of Arrow Cross in Hungary between 1944 and 1945. Specially the testimony of one Mr. Bodai is awesome, that of man so much ravaged by horror that his delivery is almost a monotone, with little emotional difference between responding a "yes" and a "no".

But it is Jessica Lange that outshines everyone else in performance, may be one of her best ever.

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19 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

Holds up a decade later for its fine performances

Author: Miles-10 from United States
9 June 2000

Excellent performances by Armin Mueller-Stahl and Jessica Lange (and even Michael Rooker in a thankless role) make "The Music Box" well-worth seeing (and seeing again). I also appreciated Costa-Gavras's establishing shots such as the dizzying image in a large building as Lazlo and his daughter go up an elevator to meet with federal prosecutors, pigeons on the window sill of the court room, etc. I liked the way Chicago and Budapest are used in the movie as two poles of the story. It is true that a few things do not make sense. Ann Talbot (Lange) accuses the US prosecutor (Frederick Forest) of letting the Hungarian government dictate his case, and the US does seem to rely entirely on Hungarian evidence, never bothering to look for any evidence west of Budapest. There is something to be said, however, for the suspension of disbelief. If the US prosecutors were not so incompetent, then it would not be entirely up to Talbot, the moral center of the movie, to uncover the truth and carry the responsibility for it entirely by herself. It is, by the way, the Hungarians and not the Russians whom Lazlo accuses of trying to frame him.

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20 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

Jessica Lange in one of her best performances

Author: Arne-12 from Denmark
27 July 2000

This film is of course a dangerous experiment with ingredients like: a court drama, holocaust 40 years after and absolute no action at all. But because of the great performances by the actors, it ends up as a deeply moving experience.

And at the very center, Jessica Lange does a tremendous job as the lawyer and daughter of a Hungarian war criminal - or is he? She appears in almost every picture of the film, and I find her very convincing in her emotional ups and downs throughout. She does it with no glamour, but alone her incredible personality.

Most of the other actors does a great job as well, and the only reason for not voting it in top is, that the plot is not too convincing - but it first became obvious some time after I watched the film, simply because of the fine acting.

I voted 9/10.

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12 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

An incredible piece of film-making by Costa-Gavras

Author: adam-blackley from Belgium
8 October 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

An amazing film. I found myself hoping against hope that the accusations of murder against the Hungarian immigrant was false, and the slow realisation that he was actually a cold-blooded murderer (or had been) was devastating. The story unfolds in a satisfying and well narrated way, and we identify with Lange's character as wanting to believe (in the face of all evidence) her father is innocent. We go with her on the roller-coaster ride of the courtroom trial, and as each sobbing victim comes to the pedestal, her confidence fades and fades. The film features amazing performances by Lange and Mueller-Stahl, and the bitter resolution of the daughter disowning her father, and having to explain to her little boy (who loves his grandfather) is heart-wrenching but never sentimental. Costa-Gavras at his best.

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12 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Gripping and Compelling Performances By Lange and Mueller-Stahl

Author: domino1003 from United States
19 June 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Music Box" poses an interesting dilemma: If your parent was guilty of a horrific crime, will you do everything to defend that parent? Ann Talbot (Jessica Lange) faces this problem when her father Michael Lazlo (Armin Mueller-Stahl)is being charged with war crimes during World War II in Hungary. Despite pleas from her co-workers, friends and even the prosecuting attorney (Frederic Forrest), Ann pushes on to defend her father. But as the trial progresses and the witnesses testify, Ann begins to have serious doubts as to her father's doubts.

The most heartbreaking scene is when Ann finds out just how horrible her father truly is. When she retrieves a music box that was left in a pawn shop by a now deceased friend, she finds the proof of her father's guilt. The look on Ann's face says it all: her father had betrayed her and that he is truly a monster.

Costa-Gavras's direction and the screenplay by Joe Eszterhas is wonderful (The ultimate irony being that what happened to Ann would soon happen to Eszterhas, when he found out after the film's release that his own father was accused of war crimes). However, the brilliant work of Lange and Mueller-Stahl is excellent. The viewer is Ann, wanting to believe the innocent of her father, but are incredibly hurt when you find out the truth.

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9 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

A movie with a message

Author: modalisorek from great neck ny usa
12 July 2000

The movie focuses on two universal questions-do we actually know people we believe we do,including close ones,and does productive and outwardly respected life erase or diminish a past of hineous and sadistic crimes. I find the acting in the movie,including in the supporting roles,powerful.The courtroom scenes,with victims confronting a Hungarian ex SS man,deeply moving,and far from any cliche. worth noting is the senior lawyer,uttering his views about the holocaust to his grandson.One wonders what it will take to disrupt his aloof equanimity. I think that the movie has unique value,in light of the proliferation of the holocaust deniers,practitioners of historiographic hooliganism,by doing its part in telling us what happened.

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8 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Did John Demjanjuk have blood on his fingers?

Author: Turan from Munich, Germany
24 August 2001

The movie is based on the case of the alleged war criminal John Demjanjuk whose American citizenship was revoked and he was extradited to Israel for trial. In Israel, he finally was acquitted for lack of evidence. In the movie Costa-Gavras does have a strong opinion about the case, but in real life the all-important question "guilty or not guilty" was never answered properly.

A good movie, too good to stay in the cinemas for a long time.

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10 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

A commendable film that exposes the fallacy of the Holocaust as the national crime of Germany alone when in truth all Europe should be indicted.

Author: Deusvolt from United States
12 February 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Jessica Lange should have been nominated for and won the Oscar as early as 1989 for this film. Beyond the superb acting of Lange and her supporting cast, however, the importance of this production is that it focuses on the little known truth that other European nationalities, in this case quite a lot of Hungarians, participated in the persecution of the Jews during and even long before the Nazi domination of Europe. Nazi sympathizers and material supporters were to be found in practically all countries of Europe, including Great Britain where prominent industrialists and even members of the Royal Family were known to promote that odious ideology. After all, England, was the first European country to expel Jews by royal legal edict in 1290. And, during the holocaust years, we now know that Ukrainian, Croatian, Hungarian, Austrian and other European peoples had their own pro-Nazi organizations that actively facilitated the deportation and extermination of the Jews.

After Germany's defeat, many Nazi criminals fled to countries all over the world including the United States. Some of them even posed as Jewish refugees. In this movie, SPOILER: the father of the character played by Lange curried the favor of US authorities by being a rabid anti-communist who went out of his way to demonstrate at cultural events sponsored by the Soviet Union. He wasn't play acting as indeed Nazis and their sympathizers were logically anti-communist. His motive, however, was to avoid being repatriated to Hungary where he was wanted for war crimes.

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6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:


Author: Lunar_Eclipse_Scoping from Minnesota
31 March 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

*May Be Spoilers*

Jessica Lange has always been one of my top favorite actresses. Apart from being beautiful, she has the ability to make even dull characters seem vibrant, due to the fact that she usually just seems so fresh, unstudied, flexible. When you pair her up with a more demanding role or intriguing character, the results can be even better. Case in point is the part she plays in "Music Box": Ann Talbot, a single mother of one who happens to be an attorney. She is a woman who smiles or laughs when she's nervous or embarassed, always seems to be searching and scanning people's faces with her eyes, mentally interpreting everything they say and forming quick decisions and rebuttals. She also can "sneak up on you and clobber you", like in the brilliant, deceptive dinner conversation with Frederic Forrest that turns ugly. (You'll just have to see it, trust me.)

Lange seems to effortlessly tune us in to all the nooks and crannies of Ann's personality, which in turn makes us riveted in the emotional scenes of the film because we feel like we're seeing an actual person who we know and care about in such dramatic circumstances.

Armin Mueller-Stahl lends credible support as Laszlo, but this is Jessica's show pretty much all the way; we don't really know him at all as a character because the script gives him little to do, probably in an effort to make us not really know whether he's guilty or not -- until the end, of course. Frederic Forrest has the best moments apart from Lange as the prosecuting attorney who often resorts to typical arrogant machismo or petulance to prove his points, although the character also feels somewhat one-sided.

You can tell the film is Gravas's work, due to the political overtones and a small-group-of-people-working-together-to . . .-type plot. Technically well made and never dull, often rewarding, but that's due to the acting. I suspect with lesser actors involved it could have been rather bland. Kudos to the casting director.

See it if you're looking for a solid courtroom drama with standout performances, or if you're a fan of Lange, who gets to speak some Hungarian in the film as well -- impressive job again, Jessica!

My rating: 8/10

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