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"The Double Life of Veronique" is an absolutely beautiful movie in every
sense. The film tells the story of two identical-looking women, the Polish
Veronika and the French Veronique, who seem to be aware of each other in
some way, but who have never met. The movie doesn't attempt to explain the
similarity of these characters; it is far more interested in telling their
stories and leaving the mystery as a sort of resonant background that
colors the events that unfold. The radiantly beautiful Irene Jacob plays
the double role of the title characters, and she is brilliant; the film
doesn't give her very much dialog, but she communicates volumes with her
facial expressions and body language. The cinematography is gorgeous, with
most of the film shot through amber-colored filters of one form or another,
essentially eliminating the color blue from the movie and giving everything
a slightly distant look.
After seeing Kieslowski's three subsequent movies, his wonderful "Three Colors" trilogy, it seemed to me that "Veronique" was almost intended to be a prequel to them, with scenes in each movie alluding to scenes in the others. Certainly, anyone who loved "Three Colors" will appreciate "Veronique" as well.
Overall Rating: 9 (out of 10), or 4 starts (out of 4)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Two countries, two women, one link... These are the clues we are given
by Kieslowski in order to piece together Veronique's central mystery.
It is, without question, a cinematic masterpiece, one of those rare,
elliptical works of cinema that on first appearance seems to present
two separate narratives unfolding in succession, with the director
linking them through coincidence, chance and uncertainty. However,
those familiar with Kieslowski and his work will know that this
particular director would never make a film of such simplicity, and
there is more information to be divulged as we wade through the murky
puddles of the character's mind(s).
The story begins in Poland, where we find the adolescent Veronika singing opera with her school choir. After getting caught in a rainstorm she goes home and makes love to her older boyfriend... so already we have themes of sex, music and the passage into womanhood, three very important factors that will resurface throughout the course of the film. Later in the story, Veronika gets the chance to audition for a highly prestigious opera company, but dies on stage before the audition is over. The story now moves to France where we meet Veronique - an older, though identical incarnation of Veronika - who works as a music teacher for an elementary school. It is at this point when most viewers begin to become baffled by the strange adjustment of the character, but in reality, no change has occurred. On the night of the audition, Veronika's death is a metaphorical one, and the sense of anxiety conjured by this important event causes her to faint away, thus losing the job.
So, when we meet the same woman some time later she has remained in France and taken the job teaching music at the school. All other events surrounding the 'death' are symbolic and subjective of Veronika/Veronique's guilt and embarrassment (...note the point of view shot from within the grave and its roots in dream-logic). It is only after exploring the world as Veronique and seeking out surrogate father figures (or indeed, lovers) that the character is able to escape into one of her father's picturesque painting and find forgiveness from her family... or so it seems? This is merely one interpretation of the central events of the film, which, along with the later Three Colours Trilogy, demonstrates Kieslowski's interest in subjective realities layered upon various coincidental narrative view-points. From this, it is easy to see the director's attempt to fill his story with other stories that grow from the central narrative and either depict, or dictate, Veronique's state of mind.
Here we have the themes of the opera, the performance of the marionettes, various confessional monologues, as well as the more conventional ideas of coming of age and growing sexual awareness, alongside the assorted political ideologies at work within the subtext. It's a particularly remarkable achievement in so much that the director takes us on a cerebral and emotional journey through one woman's psyche without any of us being fully aware of quite what is happening. As a result of this, the film works on multiple levels and, although it might be something of a cliché to point out (lest we forget that a cliché is full of truth... that's what makes it a cliché) but the film offers viewers the chance to interpret the images in situations however they desire, meaning that the overall film will have a different impact on everyone who views it, marking it out as a haunting dream of a film begging to be explored.
This notion is further explored with the use of cinematography - which is spellbinding throughout - with the director and his esteemed cameraman Slavomir Idziak employing all manner of colour tints and strange optical filters (as they had done previously with A Short Film About Killing and would continue on their next project, Blue), to paint both Poland and Paris as strange, Gothic, ethereal dreamscapes that manage to convey the character's inner-emotions, as opposed to simply creating a mood. Of course, none of this would be possible without the stunning and intricate performance of Irene Jacob, who, unlike most actresses of her age, is able to exist naturally in two completely different worlds, whilst simultaneously presenting us with two very different characters.
The fact that she is able to build such a subtle and invisible symbiosis between the two, whilst leaving the viewer completely oblivious to any broader sub-textual implications, is an astonishing achievement in itself. The Double Life of Veronique remains one of the defining works of European cinema in the 90's and is easily one of the greatest and most iconic films ever created by the late, great Kieslowski.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
... are better than one? In this case most certainly. I've just been reading some of the previous comments and most of them say what I WOULD have said had I caught this film earlier. Having said that I'd like to add that like Au Hasard Balthazar, which I also saw only recently, interpretations, both scholarly and laymanlike are to a certain extent academic because this is simply a stunning, beautifully shot movie which can mean whatever you, the individual viewer, want it to mean. I can only agree with some of the previous posters that yes, it is a reflective film in that each shot in the first half has a counterpart in the second half and yes, the director may well be exploring the areas of metaphysics, spiritualism, duality, etc but what is certain is that in Irene Jacob he has found the perfect vessel through which to project his thoughts, ideas, etc. I find that this film is far too complex to be dealt with succinctly in a report of this nature and demands further viewings. Like several other posters I find it disappointing to say the least that it remains unavailable on DVD.
Beautiful, beautiful film. Every frame is a work of art. Personally I feel that this director had one of the best eyes in the business. His Three Colours trilogy another example. But this film is just magical in its atmosphere. Sheer beauty.
We've all heard that common fable that somewhere on this earth there's
someone who's our double, a person just like us. The doubling of a
person begs the question of identity, the definition of self: If
there's two copies of a person, what distinguishes one from the other,
what makes one unique? And once the question of identity and self is
raised, the question of soul is not far behind: Given two identical
bodies, twins, then isn't the immutable constant that makes each person
unique independent of their physical existence, doesn't selfhood, the
individuation of consciousness, spring from the soul?
That's the theme, the structure of this movie. Yet, even though Kieslowski asks metaphysical questions, he is not a philosopher. He is not, frankly, an intellectual. He is a highly skilled manipulator of film image, capable of no more than loose haphazard narrative, dependent of the laxity and forgiveness of artistic association, metaphor, and symbol. So even though the question is begged, it is not plumbed to any great depth. Rather, it is seductively skimmed, skirted, teased at. Soul in this movie is nothing more than a silly reflected light bouncing around a room without an apparent source. A beautiful actress, Irène Jacob, with luminous eyes and swollen lips is not enough. Stripped of the seductive beauty and mystery of movie image, its compelling recreation of time present, his magic realism is in the end simplistic, a slight of hand, a ruse.
Kieslowski's movies are soft, lush, clever, threaded through with leitmotivs and conjuring, but in the end, empty. You go home with a vapor, no more.
I am not writing about the artistic valences in this film. In my opinion there is also a simple point Kieslowski intended to transmit. Think about this.
In the end of the movie the French Véronique says something like this: "She must die for making possible to me to live". What is this? Well, the Polish Véronique symbolise Poland and the French one France.
After the Second War Poland and the other East countries were sacrificed to live in communism just for countries from West Europe should continue to LIVE a normal life. It is simple. Opinions?
Regards, George - former Est Europe citizen
Parallel lives ideally bound together by some banal photographic clicks
doomed to shake the soul and to generate a visual vortex determined by
the perception of an impalpable, aleatory mystery, maybe some anomalous
violence within the limits of a distortion in the space time continuum.
Strange consonances, mutual echoes of existences fastened to invisible
threads that join together and keep apart. Subterranean feelings of
overwhelming voids lived like sudden and unexpected moments of
melancholy wrapped in mystery. Hands leaned against the bark of the
trees in order to penetrate the arcane vibrations of the nature and to
trace the broken thread that join us to a parallel existence swept away
forever, whose fleeting trace can be seen on a creased sheet of
sensitive paper. Kieslowski chooses the sweet and gentle Irene Jakob to
play the main character of his first movie after the worldwide famous
Dekalog. It's impossible to forget the scene where the protagonist
"lifts her eyes to the sky like a flower to the rain" (please, Sting,
excuse me you can) to receive the raindrops in her face with open arms
and to feed on their tonic energy.
The movie is imbued with a flavor of magic innocence and candor and painted in light tones, while the music composed by Zbigniew Preisner seems to burst forth from the bowels of the film substance. The director models all around the figure of the protagonist a world of the same consistence of the marzipan, the same gracefulness of harmonious notes levitating in the air, the same delicacy of a handful of romantic kisses given passionately. All things considered, « The double life of Véronique » looks like an inexhaustible hymn to the life and to the capacity of regeneration peculiar to our vital tissues after an indirect experience of death, thank to the discovery of the absolute love, impalpable like the atmosphere that surrounds the whole story, unlikely and ethereal at the same time, sublimed by strange relations referring to subtle Kieslowskian metaphors always on the look-out. A kind of love bred by sudden tumults of passions wrapped in the thickest mystery, that come true thank to mysterious sound messages referring to a station touched lightly by the shadow of destiny.
Polish screenwriter and director Krzysztof Kieslowski's ninth feature
film which he co-wrote with Polish screenwriter Krzysztof Piesiewicz,
premiered In competition at the 44th Cannes International Film Festival
in 1991, was shot on location in France and Poland and is a
France-Poland-Norway co-production which was produced by producer
Leonardo De La Fuente. It tells the story about and educated singer and
pianist named Weronika who lives in an apartment in Poland and who is
in a relationship with a man named Antek. After experiencing a feeling
of not being alone which she is instigated to act upon, Weronika
travels to Krakow where her aunt lives and when she gets there she
notices a woman whom she has never seen before and who bears a striking
resemblance to herself.
Distinctly and subtly directed by Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieslowski, this finely tuned fictional tale which is narrated mostly from the two main character's point of view, draws a virtuous portrayal of the life of a Polish woman named Weronika and a French woman named Veroniqué who are identical and who one day coincidentally or determined by destiny crosses paths. While notable for it's naturalistic and atmospheric milieu depictions, distinct production design by production designer Patrice Mercier, cinematography by polish cinematographer Slawomir Idziak, costume design by costume designers Laurence Brignon, Claudy Fellous and Elzbieta Radke, fine editing by French film editor Jacques Witta and use of colors and light, this character-driven and narrative-driven story where the director could focus more on the cinematic aspects of his film and less on the political which was characteristic in many of his previous productions due to the political situation in his country, depicts two interrelated and empathic studies of character and contains a great score by Polish composer Zbigniew Preisner.
This dramatic, literary, somewhat surreal, romantic and humanistic drama from the early 1990s about identity and faith which is the last feature film Krzysztof Kieslowski made before ending his career with the Three Colours trilogy which consisted of "Blue" (1993), "White" (1994) and "Red" (1994) and which is set in the capital city of France and the capital city of Poland in the early 1990s and where a music teacher for children named Veroniqué who lives in France experiences a feeling of being alone, is impelled and reinforced by it's brilliant narrative structure, substantial character development, subtle continuity, interrelated stories, endearing characters, poetic scenes and the memorable acting performance by French actress Irène Jacob. A cinematic, cinematographic, psychological and lyrical mystery which gained, among numerous other awards, the FIPRESCI Prize Krzysztof Kieslowski, the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury and the award for Best Actress Irène Jacob at the 44th Cannes Film Festival in 1991.
The premise of this film is based on the old legend that we all have a
twin somewhere in the world. Weronika is a Polish opera singer who
while performing at an outdoor concert, continues to sing in a heavy
rainstorm. Afterwards, she meets her boyfriend, Antek, and they get it
on. She tells her father that she does not feel alone in the world. She
visits her aunt in Krakow and meets a friend at a concert rehearsal.
While listening, she sings along and the director is so impressed with
her voice that he asks her to audition. While walking down a street
during a protest rally, she notices a woman taking photos of the crowd.
The lady looks like her twin. Her double gets on a bus which drives
She passes the audition and the following night, and while singing a solo at a concert, collapses and dies on stage. Her spirit travels over the audience.
That same day in Paris, Veronique(Irene Jacob), feels a great sadness for no apparent reason. Later, at her classroom, she leads her students in a classical piece by the same composer that Weronika was performing when she died.,
Veronique falls in love with a puppeteer and writer named Alexandre and as the couple go through a photo album, he sees a picture which looks like her. Veronique explains that it can't possibly be her, since she took the photo. There is no real ending for Double Life, but Irene Jacob in the dual role, makes it work.
This is a story of two women, the Polish Weronika and the French
Véronique. Both women are played by the stunningly beautiful and
captivating Irène Jacob. Weronika gets her story told in the first
third and then Véronique has her turn. In addition to their being
identical in physical appearance the two women share many other traits.
Both are musically talented, have similar heart conditions, are the
same age, and have parallel experiences. While the two never meet, they
intuit the existence of each other in some mysterious ways. This
storyline may be hard to swallow for the literal minded, but the movie
is not out to convince us of anything, but rather to create a mood and
have us consider possibilities. I think most people have wondered who
on the earth most resembles them in appearance and experience and this
film taps into that speculation by way of exaggeration. And who knows,
is what happens in this movie any stranger than the existence of
entangled particles at the atomic scale where a change in the state of
one effects a change in the other no matter the distance separating
Much is left to the interpretation of the viewer and anyone who is looking for some definite meaning will most likely be disappointed. Many scenes and events seem to be of little relevance. For example, when Weronika is having an acute heart problem she looks up and sees a man in an overcoat walk by and expose himself. These ridiculous events certainly happen in everyday life, but why put this in here? There is a stern, scowling woman who appears in both stories, but there is no hint given as to her tie-in.
This is artfully filmed and could be considered a warm-up for Kieslowski's "Three Colors: Red," since many scenes are lighted in soft red light and many physical objects are red. The lighting takes full advantage of Ms. Jacob's beauty.
Given the musical talents of the two women, it is not surprising that music plays a key role in the film. There is a concert scene that has Weronika singing an incredibly magnificent aria. I played that scene several times. The soundtrack composed by Zbigniew Preisner lends a haunting quality to the proceedings and much would be lost without it. In a playful twist, music from an 18th-century Dutch composer, Van den Budenmayer, is referenced and played. Turns out that this is a pure creation of Preisner.
The Criterion Collection DVD has an alternate ending for the U. S. version. Any additional significance contained therein was lost on me.
When I first watched this I did not much appreciate it. Thinking that maybe I had missed something I watched it again and was glad that I did, since I found it much more engaging. Perhaps I was too busy reading subtitles on first viewing and missed the exceptional visual qualities. And I was better able to follow the subtle courtship game that Véronique and her suitor were playing.
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