Veronique is a beautiful young French woman who aspires to be a renowned singer; Weronika lives in Poland, has a similar career goal and looks identical to Veronique, though the two are not related. They are unaware of each other's existence, yet they each sense a spectral companion.Written by
At one point during editing, Kieslowski and editor, Jacques Witta, had the idea to make as many different versions of the film as there were cinemas to show it. This would have meant that in Paris alone seventeen different versions of "The Double Life of Veronique" would have been available to screen. The idea was eventually scrapped due to obvious time and financial constraints. See more »
After Weronika collapses on stage an extra can be seen running onto the stage, he accidentally pulls down a large spotlight which falls onto some people in the audience. See more »
The American version features a different ending: in the original, Véronique drives to the house where her father is still living and pauses outside to touch a tree. He realizes that she's outside and raises his head from the bench where he's working. The American version features one minute of additional footage showing the father stepping outside the house, calling his daughter, and Véronique running into his arms. Kieslowski shot the additional sequences after the film's premiere at the New York Film Festival in 1991 at the insistence of Harvey Weinstein, who at the time was president of the film's US distributor, Miramax films. See more »
Slow and sometimes self-conscious, but still remarkable gorgeous & moving
The Double Life of Veronique (1991)
Director Krzysztof Kieslowski is one of the undisputed poets of Cold War and post-Cold War cinema. The movies in his Polish/French trilogy, Blue, White, and Red, are finely tuned, sensitive, imaginative dramas that use mystery, music, psychology and visual fluidity to immerse you in another world that is beguiling and fascinating.
That's exactly what goes on here. It's a stunning movie-making "achievement" in how it pulls off this unique blend of amorphous elements, leading you into the ambiguity of the director's invented world. And into the world (or worlds) of the lead characters, both played by Irene Jacob, a classic kind of restrained French (French-Swiss) actress with a limited range, but within that range she has penetrating beauty and a moving, melancholic aura for the camera, which lingers on her face through much of the movie. Her roles as the two women who are classic doppelgangers--they look alike, have similar talents (singing), and both have heart problems. And they overlap in reality for just a few seconds, with only one seeing the other until later, when the other finds she took a picture of the first.
This is an unashamedly lofty film. It has high art written all over it, but not in the experimental or cutting edge way of independent filmmakers of this time. Rather, it pushes European mainstream film to its most refined limits, not giving up a narrative logic, not giving up musical scoring and photographic pyrotechnics, and not giving up a cast of beautiful people doing beautiful things. In fact, the star, first shown as a child, is looking at the stars in pure wonder, and the beauty of the world is sustaining and truly marvelous for her--and this I think is the life view of the director. That the world is amazing, filled with odd and beautiful coincidences, and is mostly there to be lived and enjoyed regardless.
To some extent, he is both characters, both Veroniques. The allegories of 1980s Europe, splintering under Communism's last few years, have been written about a lot (the Polish Weronika gives herself to her music and dies for it, trapped somehow, the French Veronique is free to reject her talent, travel, and yet, ultimately, end up a puppet to her personal weakness). But the fact is, Kieslowski was both the successful Polish director who died young (though he didn't expect that I'm sure) for his art, and the successful expatriate living a life filled with art and pleasure. He embodied the modern Europe, filled with the heady optimism that led to the love of a new Europe without borders, infinite in its possibilities.
It's worth noting that Communism has just fallen when this movie was made. There is a brief scene (the bus scene with the soldiers) that inserts this with, as usual, elegance. (Note here that he again makes the individual's inner needs more important than the greater politics.) The French Veronique is free to be hedonistic, the Polish version cannot quite do that, though you feel her struggle with what to do with her life as a singer.
All of this is obviously impressive. For its intentions and its inner coherence, the movie is terrific. But it's also starting to feel self-important, a little overblown in both its allegories and even in the basic doppelganger hook that holds it together. It's also a slow movie. If you don't completely drown, happily, in the aesthetics of the film (which would be easy to do), you might find there are little moments made too important, too detailed, too unaware that the audience is getting ahead of the movie and is restless. For me this was in some of the musical segments, in the marionette scenes, and even in the very last moments, which should have blown me out of the water.
Final word. I think it would help to see this film before the Three Colors trilogy, because they are better movies, especially "Blue" and "Red." I have seen "Red" several times, and it also stars Jacob, and I love it completely still. This predecessor is thinner in comparison, but only in comparison to this remarkable director's startling successes immediately after.
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