The Double Life of Veronique (1991)

thedoublelife4Krzysztof Kieslowski’s The Double Life of Veronique fills an ethereal world full of dancing light, soft hues, and faint reflections. It’s beautifully muted visuals complement a wonderfully mysterious story. Its title suggests the potential of a story about one woman living two varying lifestyles, one respectable, the other not. Instead, the film revolves around two women living parallel lives. Neither is shameful or noticeably corrupt. They are both sweet individuals with aspirations that drive their lives. They desire love and commendation like many of us.

The first is named Weronika, a Polish beauty, who is an up and coming operatic performer. While her star is on the rise, she meets a new boyfriend and goes a trip to visit her aunt. But everything goes back to the music. In fact, music often takes center stage totally enrapturing us in song. There are sublimely haunting melodies that pierce right through our core. The angelic voices are gracefully wafting through the chambers of cathedrals and music halls. And just like that the breathe is gone out of one of the angels for good. We get a hint at it from Weronika’s aunt, suggesting that all their family members died unexpectedly, but there’s no more explanation.

thedoublelife5The majority of the narrative follows French music teacher Veronique, who is the spitting image of her Polish counterpart. Except they have no relationship whatsoever, only some odd intuition that there is someone else out there who they do not fully know. As we observe the daily rhythms of this young woman’s life, it feels almost otherworldly with an unearthly golden glow that illuminates the streets she walks. It’s a film where marionettes are made graceful and bouncy balls are little orbs of wonder. Along the way, Veronique finds a love of her own that she doesn’t even know. But she’s enchanted by him and the magic that surrounds him, much as we are bewitched by her. Her lover is constructing two identical marionettes in order to tell a new story about two women with a connection that cannot be described. In other words, the mythos around his narratives, tread closely to Veronique’s own life. A girl in one of her photos makes it clear. Everything comes to a fitting full circle, and yet we get little in the realm of a fully gratifying ending.

thedoublelife2More often than not Kieslowski’s film has a mesmerizing effect on me and a  great deal of that power of entrancement is due to Irene Jacob. She is like a cinematic goddess with a face made to be scrutinized. A charming classical beauty, she exudes a range of emotions, while still managing to hold onto a semblance of mystique. Jacob is a wonderful muse for the director’s purposes and she would prove so again in Three Colors: Red. But that’s another conversation entirely.

I consciously ask myself, “Is this a film even to be understood?” Because the plot points and the pieces don’t always seem to fit together especially well when you actually consider them. And somehow I remain content in that reality. Whereas someone like Michelangelo Antonioni throws away a few pieces of the puzzle for good measure, for Kieslowski these final pieces never existed. They are not paramount to what he is trying to accomplish. The Double Life of Veronique maintains such a transcendental almost spiritual quality because we can only watch and listen. Ours is not to reason why ours is to simply look on in awe at what we are witnessing. The beauty, the enigma, and the feelings. Because Kieslowski is more interested in the essence of the film than the particulars.

4.5/5 Stars

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