Polish Cinema: Fugue (Agnieszka Smoczynska, 2018, Poland/Czech Republic/Sweden)


               Fugue is a more conventional turn from Agnieszka Smoczynska, following her wild genre-melding The Lure (2015). The premise of a person who returns home after a period of memory loss has been used in many films before, and so as an audience we automatically have certain expectations about how the plot of this film will unfold before watching. This lack of novelty places the film at a disadvantage in comparison to The Lure, however Fugue ultimately stands on its own.
               The film opens with an excellent scene – our protagonist, Kinga, arising seemingly out of nowhere from subway tracks, and urinating on a subway platform, causing passers by to flee in disgust. This scene introduces a major motif of the film – that Kinga has left her domestic life and become animalistic and wild. Gabriela Muskala conveys this sense of wildness in her appearance and demeanor. Once she is reunited with the husband and child she left behind, we feel almost as if she is an animal that cannot be tamed. She walks around the house without pants on, offending her parents when they visit.
               For the first half of the movie, there is a suggestion that Kinga’s disappearance may have a supernatural aspect to it. Smoczynska seems to suggest this with scenes interspersed that show Kinga sleeping in the forest. Gradually it becomes apparent that the cause of her disappearance was based on a domestic dispute. This is perhaps the film’s main weakness – it leads the viewer on with the expectation of something out of The Lure, but ultimately the film is far more of a kitchen sink drama.
               If the film is perhaps a bit of a let down in terms of the plot, Smoczynska still manages to keep things engaging. The film is permeated with a sense of gloom, from the blues and grays that dominate the color palette, to the framing of Kinga’s house – set against an isolated country landscape that seemingly goes on forever. Smoczynska also shows the knack for using music that she had in her prior film, especially during a dance sequence between Kinga and her husband at a restaurant that feels completely otherworldly.
              
7/10

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