The Double Life of Véronique

The Double Life of Véronique ★★★★★

“Not long ago, I had a strange sensation. I felt that I was alone. All of a sudden. Yet nothing had changed.”

This past weekend I participated in challenge #3 of the NYC Midnight Short Screenplay Challenge after the scores of my first two scripts landed me in the top 5 overall for my heat, allowing me to advance (which I’m chuffed and humbled to say — this is my third NYCM contest and I’ve never made it this far before!). Brief rewind and how I ended up choosing to watch this film, but when I submitted my second script, I watched Three Colors: Red after to celebrate. Call me superstitious, but I queued up another Kieślowski film starring Irène Jacob to celebrate submitting my third script (even though genre-wise, these films are not at all similar to what I’ve been assigned). 

And I loved it! This movie certainly was enchanting. I was entranced from the first time we see Weronika singing in the chorus and it starts to rain. Most of the other singers ran off, but the camera fixates on Weronika, and she continues to sing out, the rain almost freeing her in that moment. This movie itself in many ways felt quite liberating to watch. 

I didn’t know anything about the plot going in. The opening scene makes the film feel like a fantasy, and as the narrative progresses, there’s this constant airiness and almost ethereal element that emanates from the film. There’s a scene on a train when Weronika looks out the window that feels like a glitch in the matrix, but it’s subtle. The fantasy and vivacity of this film is always quite subtle, but it just works. Not gonna lie, I was pretty confused for most of the film, especially since everything was so subtle. What in the Persona / Mulholland Drive double personality film is Weronika/Vèronique?! Confusion aside, this movie simply made me feel a lot of things; and I also just really enjoyed what I was watching. After awhile, I realized that maybe plot isn’t as essential to absorbing this film. My attempts at untangling the plot just helped me connect more with Weronika/Vèronique.

What I took away from the film almost is not so intellectually deep or analytical, but it rung true to me, and you can break it down several ways. 

It’s the double life of performing. Sometimes you’re the performer, and sometimes you’re the audience. Weronika/Vèronique are two similar, passionate people with similar dreams… and they also look the same, but they’re not the same… right? Though both are living in different circumstances, both of them frequently get lost in their performances — whether it’s a performance on stage, or when you’re “performing” in front of other people, like your everyday life with your friends, family, or your lovers. If you imagine Soul with its depiction of getting “in the zone,” there’s almost this invisible, unexplained magnetism that connects the lives of both Weronika/Vèronique. That’s just my take, I’m sure there’s a lot of ways to interpret this film, because it’s a tad cerebral and vague, but nonetheless enchanting — so long as if you’re ready for a slow-burn.

But damn it, I was ready. Perhaps it was because I wanted the film to work out for me, bringing up my superstition of watching these films after submitting my screenplay submissions for NYC Midnight. But there’s something about it that I just loved.

It’s beautiful in so many ways.

1. Irène Jacob is one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen grace the screen; felt that way while watching Three Colors: Red, and I felt it again with Double Life
2. The cinematography and everything about the camerawork was like a methodical ballet. So precise, so exquisite.
3. The music is capable of transcending whatever emotion or contemplation you’re feeling and multiplies it by ten.

More erudite critics explain in words about how they felt a bit more nicely & succinctly than me, and here’s one take by Jenny Jediny that I agreed with:

"In many ways, The Double Life of Veronique is a small miracle of cinema; ... Kieślowski’s strong, if largely post-mortem reputation among the art house audience has elevated a film that makes little to no sense on paper, while its emotional tone strikes a singular—perhaps perfect—key.”

And then Caryn James of the New York Times said:

“Veronique is poetic in the truest sense, relying on images that can't be turned into prosaic statements without losing something of their essence. The film suggests mysterious connections of personality and emotion, but it was never meant to yield any neat, summary idea about the two women's lives.”

I’ll love it more on a re-watch, I just know it. But I already really, really loved it on this initial viewing. Certain movies I think are more meant to elicit a response out of you, where you insert yourself into the movie somehow. Weronika and Véronique act as our vessels for us to process our emotion, to see our places in the world; pursuing our passions in the midst of political turmoil, either because of it, or in spite of it; and accepting our fragility and finding strength from within it. Hot damn! And if I make it through to the finals of NYC Midnight’s Short Screenplay Challenge by some sheer gift from the universe (or my doppelgänger, lol), then I’ll always, always watch an Irène Jacob or Kieślowski film after submitting all of my future scripts/stories. 

“All my life I’ve felt like I was here and somewhere else at the same time.”

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