The Double Life of Véronique

The Double Life of Véronique ★★★★★

“You may not remember what you had dreamed the night before, but you remember what you felt?”

A woman cools herself on a glass window. Her eyes are closed and yet everything in that moment is understandable. It is a translation of sensation into emotion. Its grace is in its simplicity but also in its meaning being impossible to fully convey in words. The woman is Irène Jacob and she is performing in Krzysztof Kieślowski’s “The Double Life of Véronique.” At this point in the film, she is Weronika rather than Véronique, a paired performance with subtle bridges and differences that explores the inexpressible communication surrounding us on a daily basis. The worlds of the two characters are connected by music, belying the transcendent qualities of the emotions on display. Jacob expertly expresses these wordless feelings and moments, often through movement and small gestures. It gives the film, and its central double performance, the quality of a dream. Both variations of Véronique engage the world through touch, to the point where it is not inconceivable that the characters only fully understand things when engaging them physically. The longing expressed in Jacob’s eyes still weighs on my mind, allowing for similarly meandering daydreams about all of our half-forgotten moments of déjà vu; those little glimpses of lives before and after us echoing through the minutes and days.

Krzysztof captures a universally-shared, fleeting feeling and crystallizes it into a movie. It’s difficult, maybe impossible, to pinpoint what exactly this feeling is. It’s one of those feelings we all have a dim awareness of somewhere in the periphery of our consciousness but the moment we try to grasp at it, its meaning escapes us. It’s so instantaneous and elusive that we are apt to dismiss its presence as something illusory. The Double Life affirms the reality of this transient corner-of-the-eye feeling and enlarges upon it until it becomes the most real and all-encompassing thing we experience. The moment we attempt to translate this feeling into concrete terms, its meaning disintegrates. Kieślowski’s strategy is not to define the indefinable but to evoke a mirage of it. Via this mirage, the movie lays bare a feeling which is encrypted within all of us. The scenes have a naturally dimming, vacuuming effect on the viewer. It’s the same sort of effect you feel when you’ve been exposed to harsh light and your eyes are struggling to adjust to a much dimmer setting. It’s saturated with an ambient amber glow, as though the scenes are being filtered through a stained-glass window. The colors merge and dissolve into one another. At every separation between objects there runs a barely-perceptible nebular glow. The underlying music has the same ghostly, elegiac quality as wind moaning through a ruinous landscape. An overwhelming molten melancholic feeling saturates the environment. The resultant effect is an ominous, suspended-between-two-worlds feeling of dysphoria. It thrives within the hair-line fracture that separates Weronika and Véronique’s lives. There’s an inescapable feeling of being in two places at once. Daily life is just full of intuition and premonition, and solitude can sometimes bring intense moments of fullness; the transcendent of the everyday world that we all understand but which is beyond the naive hope of our language to convey. this will stick with me forever, I think.

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