Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Fugue (2010)

After viewing director Barbara Stepansky’s film tense psychological film Hurt last winter, I was excited to check out her newest effort, Fugue, which promised another psychological storyline, only this one included the possibility of the supernatural.

Fugue’s premise is based upon a rare disorder called a fugue state or dissociative fugue, which according to Wikipedia is “characterized by reversible amnesia for personal identity, including the memories, personality and other identifying characteristics of individuality. The state is usually short-lived (hours to days), but can last months or longer.”

Fugue begins with Charlotte (Abigail Mittel) moving into a new house with her older, college professor boyfriend Howard (Richard Gunn). Charlotte has just suffered an accident that is barely hinted at, but that’s okay because she and Howard are trying for a baby and seem happy for their new start. However, it’s not long before Charlotte begins to sense a malevolent presence in the house and begins seeing visions of a threatening black-haired woman. She comes to suspect that something horrible happened in the house, and is determined to find out what…but at what cost?

I wasn’t as impressed with Fugue as I was with Hurt, but that doesn’t mean it was necessarily a bad movie. On the contrary, it boasted a story with plenty of twists and turns, excellent acting and even a few disconcerting scares.

The story’s details felt unique, even if the whole “is she crazy or isn’t she” angle seems overplayed. Luckily, writer Matt Harry balances out these clichés with plenty of surprises. In fact, I enjoyed how Fugue messed with your head, and just when you thought you had it all figured out it threw you for a loop and took the story in an entirely different direction. However, the story also tended to drag in places and didn’t quite grab my attention from the start. The film’s saving graces were its unexpected twists and turns as well as a bloody finale, which turned it from typical psychological thriller to something much more engrossing.

Also superb were the performances by all involved, but especially Abigail Mittel as Charlotte. Mittel made her character believable and likable (perhaps even when she shouldn’t have been), and I found myself rooting for her the whole time. I also thought Richard Gunn did a fine job as her boyfriend, who patiently endured or tried to explain away Charlotte’s ghostly visions.

The direction by Stepansky really captured the claustrophobic feel of the house and surrounding garden terraces. It made you feel boxed in and trapped, adding even more tension to the film. While the film was more a thriller than anything else, Stepansky included several nice scares and disturbing scenes. The ghost haunting Charlotte looked marvelous with a few simple effects of blurring out her eyes and mouth. Plus, the action scenes near the end really wake the film up and were filmed in such a way that they really put you in the moment.

My biggest complaint of the film probably won’t affect its official release at all, but I think it’s worth mentioning that the audio levels were absolutely awful and I couldn’t understand about half of the dialogue. Why you ask? Throughout the ENTIRE film there is an annoying music track that drowns out the dialogue. The constant music ruins the mood of the film instead of enhancing it. The film would have greatly benefited from less music and more silence, or at least have balanced audio levels. One minute I was cranking up the audio to hear dialogue, the next turning it wayyyy down so I wouldn’t have to hear the repetitive music. I think the fugue that Charlotte plays on the piano and keeps humming would have sufficed for music as opposed to the tiresome score used throughout the film. I hope this is an issue they resolve before released Fugue to the public, because this grating annoyance made it difficult to sit through.

Despite that and a few pacing problems, Fugue was a low-key indie thriller that kept me on my toes with its twists and turns. If you happen to see it at a film festival and enjoy slow-burning thrillers don’t pass it up!

For more info, visit Fugue’s Official Site!

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