“The Fugue” Review: Another Possibility of A Woman


The film review was originally posted on DeepFocus in Chinese with 1714 views

2018-05-17 Written and translated by Jiexiao Ying

The Fugue(2018) was premiered in Cannes’ Critics’ Week. The Polish director Agnieszka Smoczynska also directed the horror musical The Lure (2015). She is known for her ethereal and psychedelic music, dark and cold tones, and weaving suspense into artistic expression. However, the suspense of Fugue has nothing to do with the Hitchcockian time bomb ticking at the bottom of the car but lies in the possibility of “her” – whether a woman who has lost her memory can lead a new life.

The Fugue is a mysterious movie. The fragmented story is disrupted by the flashback of traumatic memories. The hints of past emotional scars are dropped in Alicja’s daily life. The final confession of the woman ultimately invites the audience to connect the dots, know the most important event to her, and understand her bizarre behavior and personality. Alicja couldn’t remember what happened during the past two years, except that she woke up lying on the rails of the train. Later she recalled she had a car accident with her child two years ago. She ran away from home with the child because her husband got custody after their divorce.

However, the story wasn’t clear until the end of the film. On the one hand, we are as confused as her family: why would she suddenly leave home two years ago. On the other hand, we are as confused as Alicja. She has not regained her memory, does not know whether she should return to her past self and her previous life.

In the foggy chaos, the film impressed me with Alicja’s manners. In the beginning, she was a ghostly figure emerging from the darkness of the railway station. She climbed onto the train platform, staggered around people carrying the luggage, and pulled off her stockings regardless of it being a public space. She squatted, and the urine drizzled between her high heels. It is not the smelly urine but her indifference towards the rules in the clean and open public space that marks her behavior extremely obscene.

Returning home two years later from nowhere makes her more an intruder than a homecomer. She kept her hair short. “You look like a rebellious teenager,” said her ex-husband. She is naked in her lower body and wears a coat only. “Are you from Auschwitz?” asked her mother. “You dirty woman. You shouldn’t swear!” yelled her son. She opened her closet and coldly glanced the skirt and high heels. Then she met a woman who took care of her child and claimed to be her best friend in high school. “Huh, impossible,” said her, sharply sensed the extramarital affairs between her and the ex-husband.

She is a downright “nasty woman.” Her behaviors, while extremely aggressive towards the conventions, can make people realize the social expectations over women: long silky hair, decent and pretty dress, friendly conversations, and an obligation to maintain beauty and elegance. Women are expected to function as a lubricant in human interaction, and never says something harsh or satirical. However, she is not conforming to the conventions. She is free, impressive, unique, and in a way, enviable.

In fact, her behavior is only the tip of the iceberg, and her biggest crux lies in the new self-identity. The hospital diagnosed that she had a “dissociation disorder,” which means she feels disconnection and lack of continuity between thoughts, memories, and identity. Now that she lost her past memories while entangled with the past events, here come many unsolved cases: Can she establish a new identity on her own? Will she reunite with her husband? Will she mind her bond with the child? These unsolved cases lead people to follow the story, imagine the different endings, and they are also thought experiments for the possibility of a woman.

Her identity is initially named by other people. On the hotline of the TV station, her father recognizes her and says her real name, Kinga. This is reminiscent of the usual establishment of female identity, which is usually not determined by the woman herself, but by people around her, for instance, the patriarch in the family. However, she repeatedly emphasizes that she is not Kinga, and she sticks to an aesthetic style and makes choices different from her previous self. Even though the initials of her signature are KS, she remembers the safety plug of the gas stove at home, and her scar left by the childbirth surgery is recognized by her husband, she chooses to put the body memory aside and stubbornly leads a new life.

When we see her with her husband, we incline to imagine that she falls in love with him once again. One of the most beautiful scenes in the middle of the film is the improvisational dance of this couple. The lazy voice sings “lovers are strangers…”, and the two swims in the light beam like a fish as if their passion is rekindled. While taking care of the child together, they increased their intimacy and made love at one night. However, the film does not allow the two to bond deeply in the deepening mutual understanding and strong feelings. She cannot get over the trauma. She always remembers the loss of custody rights after the divorce. She is no longer Kinga. She is Alicja.

Children are usually the reason for mothers to stay. Mother is usually regarded as the most important identity of women. “Motherhood” is too often praised as the greatest virtue of women. It seems that a woman’s life is not complete if she never becomes a mother. But Alicja is indifferent, complicated, and yet ever-changing. When she watches the breastfeeding footage on a family videotape, she is indifferent at first, but her eyes are filled with tears the second time. The child hostilely scatters pins on her bed, and she gently puts the pins back to the child’s board. She plays with her children by deliberately misplacing the word stickers, which are used for restoring her memory as suggested by the doctor. When the child gets lost on the beach, she is crazy looking for him. That night she lovingly watches the child falling asleep.

Just when we believe Alicja, for her love for the child, will fulfill her conventional role at home and ceases her wandering, she leaves home after plays the last game. Perhaps her husband has told the child that the mother is dead and she does not want to disturb the child’s life. Maybe her husband has a new lover, and she doesn’t want to complicate his feelings since she has never loved her husband. However, I would rather believe that she is trying to let go of the past, give herself freedom, and self-invent an Alicja to take a new path. Maybe she has to trod on the road alone, but she looks back at the family and finds no suitable place for her. At least, the child’s words give her comfort: “You can go out to play and have fun, as long as you return in one piece.” Maybe she will come back and have a chat about her adventurous life?

The author of IndieWire doesn’t like The Fugue because its concept based on amnesia is cliche and boring, and the revelation moment is not surprising. However, I like the suspense of the narrative, the discussions of women’s behavior, and thought experiments on women’s identity, even if the film resorts to “extemporary amnesia” in its basic design. The loss of memory not only explains her behavior, but also complicates the experiment. In the same way that Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s novel Yellow Wallpaper delivers feminist messages through “crazy women,” Alicja in The Fugue is both a patient and a rebel. She challenges the social discipline with her “madness” and condemns the sources for her madness. If memories carry the burden of the past identity, disciplined and restrained––

Can she gain another possibility of life after losing her memory?




Fugue》在戛纳的影评人周首映。导演是波兰的阿格涅斯卡·斯莫克钦斯卡Agnieszka Smoczynska,曾执导恐怖音乐剧《魅惑》The Lure。她擅长空灵迷幻的音乐,灰暗阴冷的色调,以及编织在艺术表达里的悬疑色彩。不过《Fugue》中的悬疑不是车底的定时炸弹,而是的一个可能性——一个丧失记忆的女性能否获得新的生活。





她是彻头彻尾的”nasty woman”。这些举止尽管极端,却能让人猛然反观社会对女性的仪态约束:柔顺的长发,得体的衣着,礼貌的谈吐,还有义务保持美丽优雅,在人情世故中充当润滑剂角色,不放狠话不咄咄逼人不冷嘲热讽。她是出格的,自在的,让人瞠目结舌的,也是特立独行的,让人暗自佩服的。



当我们看到她丈夫的时候,很容易想象她与丈夫重新相恋。影片中部最优美的场景之一就是她和丈夫的即兴舞蹈,慵懒的曲调吟唱着“lovers are strangers…”,两人像鱼一般在灯光中游动,像旧情复燃的征兆。在共同照顾孩子的过程中,他们还增进了亲密感,有一晚上的鱼水之欢。可是电影没有让两人在不断加深的相互理解和不断升温的感情中重修旧好。孩子归丈夫的离婚协议给她造成的创伤似乎是不能修复的。她不再是Kinga,她是Alicja






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