The Double Life of Véronique

The Double Life of Véronique ★★★★★

"I have a strange feeling; I feel like I'm not alone."

Two seemingly identical women lead parallel versions of a similar life.

It's a shame that I've wasted it on prior reviews because the word "luminous" feels made to describe Krzysztof Kieslowski's The Double Life of Véronique. On a purely visual level its cinematography (and in particular its brilliant use of natural light) is comparable to the most painterly of films (e.g., Barry Lyndon, The Leopard). Unlike those films, however, Kieslowki's is of an exceptionally open form, its overriding motif dealing with the tension between happenstance and control. I don't believe that a single interpretation can or should apply to a work as mutable as The Double Life of Véronique.

In any case the film's value is assuredly more experiential than educative; its ambiguity feels inextricable from the ethereality of its themes and the episodic nature of its plotting. That Kieslowski clearly embraced this multivalence is evident in his short-lived idea to provide a different ending for each of the seventeen Paris theaters in which the film debuted. Caveats aside, I can't help but allegorize Alexandre as a stand-in both for Kieslowski and on a broader level as some sort of regulating higher power. The way in which he by turns exalts and exploits Véronique reflects the governing (and sometimes destructive) power of the director over the muse. Also it's hard not to read Alexandre's comment regarding the need for a second Veronique marionette ("They get damaged a lot") as an oblique comment on Weronika's fate.

With such a diffuse scenario it was of the utmost importance that Kieslowski choose a truly beguiling actor for the role of the double protagonist. In retrospect we can all breathe a huge sigh of relief that he spotted and was entranced by Irene Jacob's brief performance in Louis Malle's heartbreaking Au Revoir les Enfants. At the risk of sounding lecherous, Jacob is simply one of the most beautiful camera subjects I've ever seen. Add to this her touchingly tentative affect and you have the only performer fit for this role. Amazingly, Kieslowski initially wanted American model Andie MacDowall whose range is decidedly limited to put it mildly. I cannot and will not imagine her in this film, but I'm confident it wouldn't be among my favorites had she done it.

I remember when first seeing The Double Life of Véronique thinking the marionette sequence must have been an influence on Being John Malkovich, though Annette Insdorf's book on Kieslowski gives me the impression that both films might simply have shared the same source, American marionettist Bruce Schwartz. Kieslowski saw Schwartz on Japanese television and was deeply moved: "He was a miracle-worker. He shows his hands, he moves with the puppet, and three seconds later you forget the hands because the puppet really begins to live." So impressed was Kieslowski that he actually had Schwartz perform the puppet show in the film. As regards Being John Malkovich, I can only assume that naming the protagonist Craig Schwartz was an act of homage.

Some stray notes:
-WERONIKA SINGIN' IN THE RAIN
-KRAKOW OUTSKIRTS REFRACTED THROUGH WERONIKA'S MARBLE
-ALMOST--STAY IN TUNE
-WERONIKA STARING AT BUS WITH DOPPLEGANGER
-LECH FLASHING WERONIKA
-YOU DESERVE TO BE DRAGGED INTO COURT
-I LOVE YOUR CHIMES
-THE FAIRY CHRISTMAS BOX
-DON'T TOUCH THE CHAIRS!
-HAVE YOU BEEN WAITING LONG?
-IT WASN'T THE BOOK

In my Top 100 list.

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