The Double Life of Véronique

The Double Life of Véronique ★★★★★

The Double Life of Véronique is a tenderly photographed account of two women (one in Poland and the other in France, both portrayed by the deity Irène Jacob) living eerily analogous lives. There’s a booty of symbolist treasures to ruminate—ranging from the continual use of images reflected in and through glass to allude to the doublet’s mirrored, reduplicated existence, the cords and shoelaces used to proverbially tie them to impactful personal moments, as well as the use of puppetry in a central concept and reflexive cause-and-effect between the dyad to comment on the complexities of destiny.

The motif that congeals the ephemeral and intangible within this tale is the uncoiling of fate. Weronika, a Polish soprano of burgeoning notoriety, is atmospherically connected to the titular Véronique, a French primary school music teacher. They are bonded like two strands of a double helix, weaving around each other, held together by atomic force but never touching. As the story of these women unfurl, their own individual experiences impress upon each other; there is the mutual feeling of being tethered to someone in an impalpable way. This spiritual umbilical cord is one of the conduits through which Kieślowski experiments with the juxtaposition of predestination and free will.

Weronika’s fate seems almost to inform Véronique’s, like a harbinger or unaware guardian angel. When Weronika collapses mid-solo at her Kraków debut, Véronique is struck with the assured knowledge that she must quit her pursuit of a music performance career. She later mourns without impetus, instinctually, feeling a great emotional loss without cognizance of what it is. As Véronique becomes entangled in a subterfuge engineered by a local puppeteer, Alexandre, she sees images of Weronika, has dreams about a painting done by Weronika’s father, and even hears her voice on a tape recording given to her by the mysterious and scheming puppet-master. In feeding Véronique symbols that draw her nearer to cognizance of Weronika (eventually accomplishing that end), Alexandre also lures her to himself—he’s enacting a power over her to guide and entice her decisions compared to Véronique’s innate, divine communion with Weronika. 

As a puppeteer, Alexandre plays as a godlike figure in his profession, much like a director would over his players. His interactions with Véronique are no different—his stratagems not only stoke Véronique’s curiosity, but also breed in her a blind trust and love, which Alexandre mishandles once they physically meet: the trespasses ranging from thoughtlessness and exploitation to identity theft and physical violation.

Ultimately, we see Véronique reject this directorial concept of destiny and reconnect with nature and family, and thusly with an existential freedom that will hopefully elevate her above the ploys and manipulations of this world into the sagely intuitive realm she shares with her soul sister.

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