Agnieszka Smoczynska’s credentials as the director of 80s musical about killer mermaids The Lure, got me along to Fugue, her next feature. They couldn’t be more different in tone and style but both have stories that recast women out of familiar stereotypes.
Alicja (Gabriela Muskala) crawls disheveled onto a railway platform. She has ‘disassociative fugue’ and no memory of her past. An encounter with a kindly psychiatrist Michal (Piotr Skiba) sees her featured on a missing persons TV show and her father (Zbigniew Walerys) phones in to identify her. She has a husband, Krzysztof (Lukasz Simlat) and a son Daniel (Iwo Rajski) and has been missing for two years.
For Alicja, or Kinga as her family call her, the experience of trying to reconnect with a life and family she doesn’t remember is as disassociative as her amnesia. She is prickly and resentful, reluctant to bond with her son or call her well-meaning mother anything but ma’am.
Smoczynska takes her time revealing the story and let’s us get to know Alicja and Krzysztof, our assumptions about them slowly changing as more is revealed. The colour palette is a bleached blue-grey, isolating in it’s bleakness and mirroring Alicja’s sense of emotional separation. The director uses an undercurrent of sound to enhance the frightening nature of Alicja’s is buried memories and it keeps us slightly off-kilter, sharing her unease. The scene on the beach is a standout, with sound and visuals creating an intensity that pulls you into Alicja’s world.
With a story like this, the reveal of what really happened can be a let down, feeling less then was promised. With Fugue it felt right and although it was spelt out a little clumsily, it made sense of many small details that had seemed unimportant. I liked what it was saying about choices and courage and parenthood and that it didn’t conform to a stereotype. The final scene was beautiful and it simplicity.
Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.