The Double Life of Véronique

The Double Life of Véronique ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

"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."

Well now, that was the most beautiful composition of yellow, green, and red I think I've ever seen. There was some movie stuff going on too (you know: plot, characters, etc.), but I was just looking at the colors.

This movie is something of an enigma, and because I don't have the proper proficiency with poetic language to describe how gorgeous it is, instead what I'd like to do is walk through a very simple reading of it. If you haven't seen the film and clicked past the spoiler warning out of curiosity, I'd really encourage you to watch it without any knowledge of what happens, not because there's some big twist I'm going to spoil (the only "twist" is "spoiled" in the title of the film), but merely because I believe the movie will have a stronger impact if you're trying to figure it out for yourself. It's in the nature of these ambiguous films to be readable in many different ways, so if you go in with preconceived notions about it then you're only hurting yourself.

So yeah, spoilers start here.

One of the few things we know for certain is the doubled or split nature of our protagonist. We have Weronika, who pursues a career in singing despite her heart condition and dies as a result of overexertion, and Véronique, who lives a quiet life as an instructor of music. The two are split into opposing extremes with Weronika on the side of self sacrifice (the drive in Lacan or the ethical Cause in Zizek) and Véronique on the side of safety and avoidance.

One of the central conceits of the film is that Véronique learns from the mistakes of Weronika—she says that she can "sense what she should do" and avoids the singing which killed Weronika—but the easier, longer path that this revisionism leads her down has its own drawbacks as well. While Véronique lives and Weronika dies, Véronique's life is one of melancholy and missed opportunity. The film contrasts these two lifestyles to show how each has their benefits (purpose; longevity) and detriments (brevity; emptiness).

The obvious temptation in drawing a conclusion here is the conservative ethos of "everything in moderation"—some self sacrifice with some safety—but I think this would be missing the point of the film. The point is not that we need to balance these two attitudes, but rather that we need to pick between them, as any "balance" would ultimately fall on the side of safety. The film shows us both sides in all their complexities and asks us to choose just as Véronique must choose: the fragility of a meaningfully active life rendered meaningless by untimely death, or the listlessness of a meaningfully long life rendered meaningless by inaction?

Now please excuse me while I go watch it again.

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