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Nightingale in a Music Box (2002)

Two women confront the unleashing of a terrifying new technology... inside one of their own minds.




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Credited cast:
Andrzej Krukowski ...
Pamela Webster ...
Taylor Grove ...
Jillian Dirks ...
Trish Niemeck ...
Jane Blass ...
Deron Brooks Grams ...
Ridley (as Deron Grams)
Serena Moy ...
Chinese Agent
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Ed O'Rourke ...


Imagine a technology which has the potential to change what it means to be human. New Garden Technologies has just patented a new life form, microbes made to be inserted in the brain to control memory. The nations of the world want this technology controlled; so when New Garden apprehends someone trying to steal these genetic blue prints, the UN is quick to send Burke, a legendary female operative who has been debriefing tainted spies since the Cold War. But Robin McAlister is not your typical thief; she is a Chicago real estate agent and mother of two. So how could she possibly be involved in this crime? Unfortunately, this question may take some time to answer, because Robin claims not to even remember who she is. Burke must pick her way through Robin's mind, figuring out what is real and what has been manufactured. Burke realizes that stakes are high: How easily can our minds be taken away from us? How quickly can our identity be changed? Do we even have a self to lose? Agent Burke... Written by Anonymous

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Release Date:

8 October 2002 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Aidoni se mousiko kouti  »

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User Reviews

Simultaneously simple and intricate
1 May 2004 | by (Massachusetts) – See all my reviews

At the Boston Independent Film Festival today, I chose to watch this movie on a whim, and am glad I did. I don't imagine that many people will enjoy this movie unless they have the patience to piece together the dialogue, the mysterious ambiguity of the dilemma and the clues that the director gives us along the way that help us unlock the truth.

The movie pivots on the relationship between Burke, the specialist in deprogramming brainwashed spies during the Cold War, and Robin McAllister, the woman who is caught stealing sensitive information and who has no idea who she is. We find out that she is somehow the unwitting victim of a "music teacher," who has programmed her to respond to certain stimuli, like a gum wrapper or a phrase. The reason why she has forgotten her identity and even her own children is that she is actually a "nightingale in a music box" -- she is trapped within this state of amnesia until her music teacher can undo the "lock."

I don't want to give away too much more detail, but what I really liked about the movie was Burke's interrogations of Robin, and the movie progresses from her retelling of what she is beginning to remember to actual flashbacks. You can almost literally see the characters' minds' gears shift as each new piece of information is uncovered. The movie is simple in that there are very few locations, and I could easily imagine it being adapted as a stage play. The movie is complex in the way it explores identity, brainwashing, operant conditioning and the concept of microbes being created to erase memories, something recently explored in broader detail in "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." But the situation is made to feel so real in this movie, that you immediately accept the technology and its implications. And the end, no matter what conclusions you may try to draw during the course of the movie, will surprise you.

Catherine O'Connor, who played Robin, was present at the screening and answered questions after the movie. It was interesting to note that most of the cast had mainly experience in Chicago theater. Also, she mentioned that the director often gave them the dialogue the night before shooting, never getting the entire script, and therefore not knowing how the movie would unfold. It was shot out of sequence over a long timeframe, and she admitted that she didn't know how the movie ended until she saw the first rough cut screening. The improvisation probably added to the realism, and I think that Kelley Hazen was particularly effective in infusing some entertaining wit into what would have been some very dry monologues, and since she had to do a lot of expository dialogue, this was a tall order and she rose to the occasion.

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