Politics of memory, slippery nature of identity, familial loyalty and guilt were the dominant themes in Costa-Gavras’ murky, discomfiting and emotionally fraught Music Box. The Greek-French director focused on the harrowing topic of Holocaust through a compelling and tantalizingly structured courtroom drama that played around these themes, including the manipulative, deceptive games that some people play – through denials and obfuscations – to stay on the right side of history. Mike Laszlo (Armin Mueller-Stahl) is a Hungarian immigrant who’d fled to the US many decades back, ostensibly on account of his anti-Communist ideology. His daughter Ann (Jessica Lange) – who was once married to the son of a wealthy scion of a powerful legal firm – is a top-shot defence lawyer herself, and loves her dad who, in turn, is close to her young, impressionable son. Their close-knit family, however, comes in for a jolt when Mike is accused by an attorney with the Office of Special Investigations (Frederic Forrest) – upon declassification of incriminating UN documents – of having been the brutal, notorious Nazi ringleader of a vicious SS Death Squad. This, if proved, will lead to the revocation of his citizenship and deportation to Hungary to face war crime trials, and hence Ann decides to defend him assuming this to be a simple case of mistaken identity. However, as the trial progresses – and horrifying, macabre anecdotes of grotesque, violent massacres that were committed, start coming forth – the truth starts appearing far removed from the carefully constructed narrative of his past. Costa-Gavras walked a fine line while gradually unfolding this macabre Pandorra’s Box – by filling the proceedings with ambiguities and shifting perspectives – and was ably complemented by assured turns by Lange, Mueller-Stahl and Forrest.
Genre: Drama/Legal Drama/Holocaust Drama/Mystert