Agnieszka Holland’s Fugue, named for Alicja/Kinga’s dissociative condition, follows its protagonist as she adjusts to an old life in the Polish suburbs that she no longer recognizes. Smoczynska builds a psychological puzzle out of subtle shocks to the system: quick reflexes that reveal Alicja’s muscle memories; gestures of love that don’t quite feel like love itself. Muskala turns in a gripping performance, pitched on the razor’s edge of the film’s central mystery: whether Kinga became Alicja by accident, or because her past life gave her reason to want to be someone else.
“Fugue” takes on an essentially cinematic inquiry: Who are we without our memories? When Kinga finally has a revelation, it’s triggered by home videos, records of the past untouched by the caprices of the mind. It doesn’t matter that the facts turn out to be underwhelming, because it doesn’t matter why Alicja left. The gutting question “Fugue” poses is whether any of us can ever go back to being who we once were.