Fugue Engrosses Viewer in Intricately Crafted Story

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Fugue movie poster

Fugue (fyoog), n, a period of amnesia which the affected person seems to be conscious and make rational decisions, yet upon recovery remembers nothing of the period.

There is an easily identifiable link between the remote location of the Rock Street Films North production, Fugue, and the foggy isolation associated with memory loss. When Malcolm (Jack Foley) awakes in the mid-afternoon, dressed in his pajamas and unaware of his identity, the vast secluded countryside surrounding his house mirrors his own deserted mental state, and the calm opening scenes as he gropes for tiny familiarity amid everyday routines eases viewers into a world where no one is who they seem and time itself becomes a puzzle.

Questions are raised early on when Malcolm’s wife, Helen (Laura Tremblay), relays the details of the car accident that affected his cognition and introduces him to Ian (Mike Donis), Malcolm’s jittery friend, who shares stories of an increasingly aggressive past in an attempt to stir lost recollections but that only serve to make Malcolm wonder what kind of man he really was. When two gun-toting, black-masked intruders burst in demanding to know the combination of a sophisticated safe embedded in Malcolm’s master bedroom closet, his own latent, unconscious capacity for brutality is revealed and the storyline skews down a sidewinder path that ends a dark dream from where it began and leaves viewers increasingly breathless with each riveting frame.

The past, its effect on the present and our sense of self lie at the core of Fugue; writer/director Tomas Street nimbly advances the plot in fractured, non-linear shards, giving viewers first one perspective, then another, rewinding time to show how the calamity began before seamlessly sewing the divergent sequences together. It’s a thinking person’s thriller, rife with miniscule details--a hand print on a steamy bathroom mirror, a box on the counter, white marks on a rug, two glasses in the kitchen sink--that appear insignificant until later developments prove their meaning. Secrets, and their power to destroy, play another role; Malcolm’s refusal to divulge the safe’s contents serves as a sleight-of-hand catalyst that threatens to annihilate his family, yet the shroud of mystery is maintained even as blood is shed and the true mastermind behind the proceedings is exposed.

Fugue races across cinematic ground similar to such man-without-a-past jigsaws as Christopher Nolan’s 2001 shadow-noir masterpiece Memento and David Cronenberg's 2005 exercise A History of Violence, engrossing the viewer in a slanted realm as intricately crafted and bewildering as an Escher drawing, its scenes layered with double-meanings and powerful, blood-chilling suspense. “Are you afraid of me?” Malcolm asks Ian early in the film; by the closing reel one has the answer, and rapt attention is required to unravel the enigmatic knot of his existence. Whether its complexity necessitates or withstands repeated viewings remains to be seen, but the initial rush is well worth the ride.     

I give Fugue a 5 (out of 5) on my Fang Scale.

5.0 / 5.0