The Double Life of Véronique

The Double Life of Véronique ★★★★½

#Watched with Cormac

The Double Life of Véronique is the movie which makes you think through impressions of an irrational nature.

Kieslowski's film about two look-alike women living parallel lives (one in Poland, the other in France) juggles the themes of double existence, metaphysical connection, and the inexplicable feeling that a person is in one place but also somewhere else – within a narrative which does not feel like a narrative. On the surface, the story unfolds in a clear manner, but Kieslowski's filmic approach does not warrant the term 'narrative cinema'. With the Polish director, it is all about layers – layers that are not situated on each other but methodically overlap and merge in a torrent of colors.

Kieslowski narrates with his camera. He plays with specks of light and shadow, with muted outlines and vivid colors, and thereby lays the basis for his narrative. The foundation is at best ephemeral. Whatever truth Kieslowski captures is gone in a moment – and specks of dust settle into the sunlight's invisible crevices. The alternate usage of the colors green and red makes for a strange dissonance and a systematic balance at the same time. Mirrors are placed in nearly all scenes and show Véronique's double in a reflection that always remains hidden under a veil.

The camera sticks close to Véronique's face and creates a nightmarish intimacy as the abrupt first-person POV shots break the flow. The camera tilts and disorients yet glides across the two lives, poetic, meditative. Dreamy notes of the same music connect both women's lives. The sound design crowns the piece as Véronique hears the song in her head and toys with a shoelace in her apartment – a physical manifestation of the existing metaphysical bond between her and her Polish counterpart.

A film of impressions and implications, The Double Life of Véronique has a narrative but it is its dreamlike texture which dances to the fore. Kieslowski's direction is precise yet flowlike, and ties dreamworld and reality together with the same shoelace. Lighting, colors, mirrors, cinematography, and music are all in service of the misty fog that provides a bridge between viewer and film. The connection is mystical, illusory – impossible to pin down.

The Double Life of Véronique is the movie which makes you think through impressions of an irrational nature. Kieslowski grasps individual truths, only to demolish them the second they are born, replacing them with another. Do we have a doppelgänger living somewhere else in the world, separate but also inextricably linked to us? If we feel we are not alone in the world, is it because we feel them also living their lives somewhere? If we feel suddenly sad, is it because they are sad too? If we touch a tree and think about what they might be doing at the moment, will they feel the touch – and maybe turn around with a slight tingle of wonder?

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