The Double Life of Véronique

The Double Life of Véronique ★★★★★

Maybe this has nothing to do with it, or maybe it does. All my life I’ve felt like I was here and somewhere else at the same time. It’s hard to explain. But I know... I always sense what I should do.

The Double Life of Véronique is a film that invites you to feel first and ponder second. It is an anchored ethereality bathed in ruby reds and emerald greens—evocative of an intangible interconnectivity and sinuous sensuality. It is about those moments that defy our sense of reason, while they prompt us to rely on an innate intuition. Lush in earth and rain and verdure, the journey of two lives is shown in joy and grief—a sentient search for purpose.

Inextricably intertwined in an invisible tapestry, Weronika and Véronique lead lives that share many similarities despite existing worlds apart. Their link transcends an identical physical resemblance into a blueprint of mirrored personal history, musicality, and objects rife with semiotic significance. Both share the tragedy of mothers lost at an early age, as well as a digital injury both scarring and escaped. A syncope, an EKG. Lovers embraced, but hearts disengaged. While one’s life is interrupted, the other one’s is reconstructed, and despite never having met, they sense each other’s presence in meaningful, albeit inexplicable ways. 

Interestingly to me, glass appears as a device throughout the film to elucidate the various ways in which perception is malleable—always reflected or refracted as it inverts, stretches, and focuses the optics of their lives. Impalpably related, the hyperbolic vertices of their storylines are lamentably tethered away from a perceived asymptotic point of adjacency—always approaching each other, yet never quite destined to meet. Kieślowski’s film is furthered thematically through Zbigniew Preisner’s recurrent Concerto en mi mineur—an arrestingly beautiful piece that helps us navigate key events in both Veronicas’ lives.

As we transition from Weronika’s waning storyline to Véronique’s, we are shown an intuitively charged renewed sense of purpose through an unexplainable grief. Despite never having met Weronika, Véronique senses the loss of her astral twin, which in turn triggers a radical shift from her current life path. From loss arises rebirth and this poetic metamorphosis leads Véronique to quit her vocalist training (a shared thing with Weronika), and pursue a new vocation. This decision sets in motion a chain of events leading her to puppeteer Alexandre Fabbri, a man who will come to play an important role in Véronique’s future by pulling at her heartstrings in ways both romantically playful and psychologically manipulative. 

Particularly salient to me was the imagery evoked by the scene where Fabbri’s mirror signals turn Véronique into a real life marionette. From a distance, her movements are masterfully directed by light standing in for his traditional hand maneuvered cables. He later achieves this same effect via a cassette tape with specific city sounds that serve as clues strategically recorded with the intention of leading her straight to him. Once he reveals the underlying reasons for his ruses, conflict takes center stage between our protagonists as they struggle to reconcile the differing interpretations of their unconventional connection.

Ultimately, Véronique and Alexandre are able to find common ground in the shared experience of their emotion. They both understand the world quite differently; while Véronique is an intuitive, Alexandre is a sensor, yet in this case their contrasting methods of processing information result in a compounded level of interest and fascination toward one another. I felt there was a real sense of authenticity in the portrayal of their romantic recognition which in turn made the peculiar circumstances surrounding both characters fit plausibly and naturally within the realm of this film’s universe.

Even so, there is still something truly unsettling to me about what the penultimate scene aims to allude to with both marionettes. One upright—Véronique, the other fallen—Weronika. Fabbri’s towering presence just behind them, waiting to orchestrate their every move while lurking in the shadows...but then again, that could just be my low-grade pupaphobia doing all the talking here. In any case, The Double Life of Véronique never aims to ascertain what is real with any kind of objectivity, it simply invites you to suspend disbelief for 98 minutes, and let yourself be enraptured by the mystique of one truly magical experience.

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