The Double Life of Véronique

The Double Life of Véronique ★★★★★

That is the star we are waiting for to start the Christmas Eve. Do you see it? And there, beneath the fog, look. It is really millions of little stars.

When we look at a star it looks bright and shimmering, but what else do we know about it. It could be a burning furnace or a planet just like ours full of life and happiness. There could be people in it staring at Earth wondering what it is in the same way we marvel at them. Lying on our backs and gazing at the glimmering night sky adorned with these shining spectacles, wondering what they are, where they are, how far they are from us and how many are there in this universe is not much different from wondering if there would be someone else in this World who looks exactly like us, has the same mannerisms that we do, share the same passion, are equally as fascinated by the enigma called Love as we are and whether every moment of our lives were bonded, shared and affected, by and of each other, by some unnameable magical mechanism.

Krzysztof Kieslowski’s The Double Life of Veronique is imaginative, wondrous, melancholic and ethereally beautiful. Meeting the Love of our Life and kindling the spirit of Made for Each Other is one of the greatest pleasures, an inimitable adventure which would be memorable for the rest of our lives. But what if we get a chance to meet someone whose looks and life is just a mere reflection of ours. Kieslowski takes this wonderful idea and has woven an outstandingly beautiful poignant tale of love resonating with the lyrical, mystical and miraculous consonance between two separate lives.

From the first moment I was entranced by the elegant beauty and the sheer flair of Irene Jacob. Kieslowski’s first casting choice for the was Andy McDowell but the delay in the production and the eventual signing of the contract meant she would not be available. Hence came the truly inspired choice of casting the little known, meagrely experienced, twenty four year old French Speaking Swiss Angel who until then had played only supporting roles in a few French films. Jacob is present in almost every frame of the film and her multi-layered role is nothing short of a herculean task for a relatively inexperienced actress. Accentuated with scenes of reflective thoughts, lingering, meaningful silences, high pitched, full-fledged opera singing and the most difficult of all the sensual romantic scenes, everything was perfectly handled with incredible conviction and effortless ease. Her effervescent charm, brilliantly aided by adorable innocence, palpable sensitivity and a warmly sensual personality is displayed in full glory with unmistakable contrasts of the lively Waronika and later through the contemplative Veronique. A splendorous performance truly deserving of the Best Actress Award in the 1991 Cannes film festival.

The enchanting atmosphere created by Kieslowski had me spellbound throughout. Richly complementing the glorious beauty of Irene Jacob are the gorgeous visuals. Just five minutes into the film I knew this was going to be one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen. Cinematographer Slawomir Idziak and Kieslowski use the yellow filter lenses to provide endearing warmth, a vibrant palette of pleasurable hues of bright oranges and mellow yellows, soft shadows meshed together with brilliant streams of lustrous illumination which result in not just a visual treat but also the perfect setting for the fairy-tale like, miraculous nature of this surreal haze.

Kieslowski’s underlying themes and alliterations are interlaced into the film with such poetic significance. Looking through the Glass figures prominently almost through the whole of the film. The scene where Weronika grazes the scenery through her glass ball, or where Veronique stares at her reflection on a window pane are some of the salient scenes which were indicative and reminiscent of the basic motifs of the film.

Also his choice of vocation for Alexandre’s character (Veronique’s enigmatic love interest) sparked up quite an interesting angle of perception within me. Alexandre Fabbri is a puppeteer. Why a puppeteer? I was enamoured by this question from the moment his character came into the film. I for one thought that Alexandre was a beautiful allusion to God. His persona and his impenetrable character induced in me a strange feeling that he knows everything that is about to happen. The Marionette play, the way how he remained sure that Veronique will reach him through the sounds and voices that he had communicated to her and the finale stand testament to this feeling. There is one particular scene which made me firmly rooted to this belief in which Alexandre is shown making two little puppets that exactly identical to each other. When Veronique asks him why is making two of them he replies “Because during performance I handle them a lot. They damage easily.” If we believe that it was God who created us then it is much easier to believe he could have created so many more that are identical to us, placed them in similar plays, provided them with the same likes, dislikes, characteristics and even identical physicality. But the greatest wonder of all would be someone whom we never met, living so far away, totally unrelated by blood affecting each other’s lives in the most phenomenal fashion that transcends reality, making us embrace the prospect of the Supernatural and acknowledge the possibility of the unknown, ubiquitous presence of a power greater than us.

In an interview given to the Oxford University Kieslowski said the following:

It comes from a deep-rooted conviction that if there is anything worthwhile doing for the sake of culture, then it is touching on subject matters and situations which link people, and not those that divide people. There are too many things in the world which divide people, such as religion, politics, history, and nationalism. If culture is capable of anything, then it is finding that which unites us all. And there are so many things which unite people. It doesn't matter who you are or who I am, if your tooth aches or mine, it's still the same pain. Feelings are what link people together, because the word 'love' has the same meaning for everybody. Or 'fear', or 'suffering'. We all fear the same way and the same things. And we all love in the same way. That's why I tell about these things, because in all other things I immediately find division.

This I think describes best why he had chosen to make such a film. Throughout the film there is sense of warmth and embracing attitude. Nobody is harsh, cruel or violent. Everybody seems generous and genuine and the film itself is about the unrealizable connection one might have with another being on earth. Overcoming the confines of the character of Weronika and Veronique this theme might be applicable to all of us. That we are not alone and there might be someone who has gone through the same pains, pleasures, dejections, elations and the unbearable heaviness of our sorrows can be lightened if we accept that there are so many others who share the same feeling; are some of the ideas that transcend the film and are relatable to human life and existence in general.

Kieslowski I read was raised Roman Catholic and retained what he called a "personal and private" relationship with God.In an interview, he said: “I am not a believer. For forty years I have not entered a Church. This film could be his definition or what the believers could term as re-definition of Fate, Chance, Coincidence, Reincarnation, the Miracles of God and how God speaks to us through his creations. I perceive the film as his way of conveying that no person must feel like they are The Last Life in The Universe and how Everything is Connected.

P.S, The film also features the eternally soulful music of one of my Life's greatest pleasures, Zbigniew Preisner. His score here left me at a loss for words. It's beauty is intangible but the feeling it induces in me I am very much aware of. Preisner has become a part of my life ever since I listened to Lacrimosa in The Tree of Life which incidentally became a memorial piece for Kieslowski after his death.

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