The Double Life of Veronique (1991) dir. Krzysztof Kieslowski
Starring: Irene Jacob
“The Double Life of Veronique” is the film which launched Krzysztof Kieslowski onto the international scene. It’s a sumptuous film filled with beautiful imagery, music and locales. The narrative is dreamlike and lyrical. Plot is secondary to the mood and atmosphere.
We first meet Weronika, a young Polish soprano living in Krakow. She mentions to her father a feeling that she is not alone in the world. During a town square protest, Weronika catches a glimpse of a woman who looks exactly like her. Her twin quickly boards a bus without noticing Weronika, but not before she snaps a few photos of the crowd. We then learn about Weronika’s twin, Veronique, a French music teacher, who also mysteriously feels a similar sense otherworldliness about her twin. The two never meet, nor is there necessarily a direct connection between the two. Explaining the details of the story will not do the film justice. It’s about the nature of coincidences, unexplained behaviour and alternate realities. If you’re new to European art cinema, this might be a good start. It’s ambiguous, transcendental, and beguiling.
The film features many of Kieslowski’s frequent players, including a sexy Irene Jacob, composer Zbigniew Preisner and cinematographer Slawomir Idziak. Note: Idziak has gone on to shoot some major Hollywood blockbusters (ie. “Blackhawk Down,” and the next Harry Potter film), and the roots of his style are in this film. Of course, Kieslowski went on to make the “Three Colours Trilogy” and we also came to learn of his landmark 80’s Polish television series “Decalogue.” “Double Life of Veronique” is a good bridge between both works. Though the film may sound like a high concept thriller about sexy Doppelgangers, its not. It’s classy and high art, yet accessible to all. A new edition has just been released on DVD. Give it a try. But remember, don’t concentrate too hard, just dim this lights, put your feet up, let the film wash over you, and savour it like a fine wine.