The Double Life of Véronique

The Double Life of Véronique ★★★★½

If a film by Krzysztof Kieslowski doesn't necessarily make you feel anything big, it will almost certainly make you think something big. It's especially striking, therefore, when it manages to do both, as The Double Life of Véronique does.

The film has two main characters, Weronika and Véronique, women of the same age who grow up to be identical to one another. Weronika lives in Poland, moving to Krakow where she pursues a career as a singer. She collapses of a heart attack during a performance, however, and dies. From there, the film moves to the story of Véronique, a Parisian teacher who falls in love with a puppeteer from afar, as he does with her. Her own life is a mystery to her - why has she fallen in love with someone she doesn't even know? Why does she sometimes get feelings of sadness she can't explain?

Kieslowski doesn't want to give us answers, and while this may be frustrating, if we think too much about why certain things happen in the plot, we lose sight of the ambiguity that makes it so unique in the first place. For Kieslowski generally, it's all about the ties that bind us, how much of our lives we can chalk up to fate, and other aspects of existence we just can't control. This is also the theme of his masterpiece, Three Colours: Red, so it really is the gift that keeps on giving in terms of how you can examine the meaning of life. The Double Life of Véronique has a completely different feel from Three Colours: Red; it's more entrancing and intense, and less realistic. It's like a strange nightmare, an example of this being when Weronika is randomly flashed and doesn't react; there's little explicit logic and everything feels exaggerated.

This is largely thanks to cinematographer Sławomir Idziak, who also shot Three Colours: Blue; he drenches the film in eerie lighting and bold reds, yellows and greens, which take an ineffable hold on you. Also imperative to mention in any discussion of Kieslowski is the music of Zbigniew Preisner. One of the best composer-director collaborations in the history of cinema, Kieslowski knows how to use music to peculiarly haunting effect, rendering Preisner's complex melodies unforgettable. Central to this film in particular is the dual performance of Irène Jacob, who makes the characters appropriately mysterious.

The Double Life of Véronique is a film that doesn't want to explain itself, nor does it want to be explained by the audience. It taps into things we've all at one point had a sense of - whether or not we're totally unique in our thoughts and feelings, let alone in our physical bodies; whether or not we fully understand everything that happens to us - but there's nothing we can definitively grasp onto. It's messy and difficult, but so is life for all of us.

Added to My Top 250+

Albie liked these reviews