review for The Music of Chance on AllMovie

The Music of Chance (1993)
by Perry Seibert review

Stone and Flower have Nashe and Pozzi work off their gambling debt by building a seemingly inconsequential rock wall. They must lift each heavy stone by hand. They must live in a trailer on the estate. They may not leave the estate and are restricted to limited areas. They are watched over by Calvin Murks, an unpleasant, armed man. This describes the largest portion of what happens in The Music of Chance, but describing it makes it seem so much less important than it feels. A faithful adaptation of a novel by the gifted author Paul Auster, this film succeeds in posing the same existential questions the book does -- What is freedom? What is fate? What is choice? What are our responsibilities as human beings? -- without providing any easy answers or, possibly, any answers at all. One can quickly get lost attempting to decode the potential meanings of everything in this deliberate, studied film. That is the film's appeal. Why are the men named Stone and Flower? Why have Stone and Flower built a miniature scale reproduction of their estate in one room of their house? Why does Nashe sing an aria for no apparent reason? (It isn't just because Mandy Patinkin is playing him -- the scene is in the book as well.) The film, like life, seems to mean something, but that meaning is just out of reach for both the characters and the viewer. Maybe there is a big picture. Maybe there isn't. The Music of Chance unfurls layer after layer of symbolism, but it is up to the viewer to decide what the meaning is.