Kevin Chan’s review published on Letterboxd:
Sometimes, it doesn’t seem at all possible for one to conjure up a film essay that encourages others to see the movie about which the essay is written. In some aspects, the only motivating idea one can jot down for this kind of flick is to just see it because the written word just isn’t enough to explain the kind of experience, whether that be satisfying or confusing, that is received while viewing a motion picture. Of course, a movie isn’t simply for one to see, but experience and live through each movement, sound, frame, musical note, eye contact, et cetera. Kieślowski’s ‘91 feature fits into that mold of difficulty in written encouragement for people to watch a film. What can be somewhat achieved (at least in my purview) is to translate the metaphysical elements and human emotion into words. But ultimately, that could be an utter failure.
In 1990, a young Polish woman Weronika (Irène Jacob) is an aspiring and talented singer who, oddly, feels she is not alone in the world — sure, a father, a boyfriend, and friends of her own plus successfully reaching the stars to make it big time… seemingly, there’s another presence she can’t pinpoint or acknowledge. In France, Véronique (also Irène Jacob) is too, an aspiring singer, but a certain event prevents her from pursuing her dreams unlike Weronika. But what could that be? She too senses another presence and a loss that causes her grief, but she can’t decipher it. Will these two women cross paths, and will questions be answered? Or if not, how will these peculiar feelings from two identical women with identical dreams from different continents be clarified?
At some point, there may come an intriguing realization through extraordinary senses about the frailty and beauty of life. Kieślowski drives a magnetic narrative that not only delves into a few bouts of eccentricity and off-putting (yet quite funny) spontaneity, but shows a unique and heavy appreciation and adoration for human movement, love, intuition, and imperfection. Of course, film is a medium to express such tidbits of expression. Get ready for a reused Eastwood quote in maybe two of my reviews (before this one) so far about movies…
It’s not an intellectual medium. It’s an emotional medium. So, you gotta feel what the characters are, how they all interact, and then go with it. There’s no rules in the world of movies. The only magic is a lot of work and a lot of good luck. — Clint Eastwood, “Cry Macho - Clint Eastwood Rides Again Featurette.” YouTube, uploaded by Warner Bros. Pictures., 13 Sep, 2021, youtu.be/yuLxm1X2HX0
Certainly, the rules of a three-act narrative or a structured tale to drive and craft what makes a screenplay are not the be-all-end-all stipulations that must breathe life into a motion picture, neither to make a proper one. What is true and necessary is the emotion because satisfying delivery via words isn’t always easy. Kieślowski’s language is through close-ups and a longing look at every quirk, look, laugh, smile, sound, and stare from the very, very lovely Iréne Jacob. One can say this about any film, especially those of the golden age, but there’s a grandeur and a loving eye that manifests in a way, and it’s sort of difficult to explain.
The kind of perusing eye that Kieślowski’s vision naturally garners from the audience isn’t obsessive or voyeuristic as one might think, but more so appreciative and attempting to make one actually feel — an introspective look at human love, sin, and passion. Each vocality, glare, and movement from Iréne Jacob and the players around her joined together with the atmospheric cinematography evokes a longing and loving desire. And when one takes in the metaphysical element, the playing of senses, and the intuition as borne by both Weronika and Véronique, what then emanates is an accentuation of said longing and loving desire that just almost reaches that trophy of life as it is in front of you apart from the screen.
It might be fair to say that the right kind of idea to propagate about this flick is mystery. Not really mystery of the story and the why of it, but mystery in human life — in the love between a man and woman and how they come to know each other somehow; a father and daughter and the subtleties and minimal explanations of the mutual loss they’ve experienced plus their never ending love for each other; and two women who have never met, but bear the strongest sense of each other’s existence… or will they eventually meet? That’s for you to find out. Through those facets stem forth a musicality of the existential and an orchestral vernacular about life’s fragility and sacredness. It all leads to one realizing that her life has been saved and that life around her isn’t to be taken for granted. Told you this was difficult to put into words. Kieślowski is great. Also, I think I love Iréne Jacob. No, I definitely do.