“The Double Life of Véronique” by Krzysztof Kieslowski

This French-Polish film by Krzysztof Kieslowski is a movie, which as critics put it, is very little on paper and lovely on the emotional connect. It is rather like the ethereal musical note whose melody impinges on your senses but try as you might, you would not be able to put that on paper. An artistic work beckons you and gives you that special insight into the artist’s thoughts and in these realms, casting aside logic and the rules of the conscious world, allows one to truly experience it to its fullest.
The Double Life of Veronique
I saw the film twice and I could appreciate a lot of nuances much better on my second viewing.

Two children in different locations are shown the beauty of nature by their mothers – a lone star below the fog of a million stars in the night sky and a tender leaf with fine veins running through.

This was such an artistic way to start the movie, though it was only during the second viewing that I actually could relate it back to the story.

Weronika (Irène Jacob),a Polish church concertist in Poland tells her father that suddenly she didn’t feel ‘alone’ and expresses a desire to go to Krakow to visit her ailing aunt. In Krakow, as she is walking down a market square where a protest was on, she suddenly spots a woman exactly similar to her, boarding a tourist bus. As she stands looking at her, the bus moves taking the woman who’s frantically clicking pictures.This was the only meeting of the two women, Weronika and Véronique (Irène Jacob), a french music teacher from Paris, who deep within their consciousness are aware of a strange sensation of not being ‘alone’ in the world and of being at two places at the same time.
In a quirk of fate, Weronika collapses and dies in her first orchestra and there is a strange sensation of observing the proceedings from above and seeing the soil flung down on the coffin.

Irène Jacob is a lovely actress and the different emotions flitting across her face is wondorous to watch.I found the shots sensual and magical. The camera zooms in on a very unlikely object and slows pans out.
The only thing that slightly jarred was the relatively short duration of Weronika’s life and her death that seemed a bit abrupt.The scene when Weronika dies and the sensation of Weronika observing herself is unnerving and is superbly dealt in the way the camera zooms over the audience.

The haunting melody by the Polish composer, Zbigniew Preisner, stays with you long after the movie is over.

Véronique feels an inexplicable grief coming over her. As she teaches her students the same notes which Weronika plays when she dies, she feels an agitation coming over her.Around this time, she comes into the acquaintance of Alexandre Fabbri(Philippe Volter) who performs a marionette show about a ballerina who dies during a performance and becomes a fairy.

The introduction of Alexandre Fabbri is interesting at this stage as it almost seems completely discrete from the main story. The only connecting factor seems to be the marionette story which is uncannily similar to the story of Weronika.

She keeps running into Alexandre and discovers him to be an author who’s written several works.She gets a mysterious parcel containing a tape with only some background noises and sounds of some musical notes.As she hears it over and over again and examines the postage, she discovers them to be the sounds from a restaurant in a railway station.When she follows her instinct, she finds Alexandre waiting for her in the restaurant.He explains that it was a test to see whether a woman would respond to the call of an unknown man. She feels manipulated and runs away from him but he manages to find her and apologize. They spend the night together and in the morning, he finds the photo she had clicked of Weronika in Krakow amongst her other photos and inquires about it.It was then that Véronique sees Weronika for the first time and comprehends and cries bitterly.

Later, she sees Alexandre creating two identical marionettes of her and when she questions, he explains that since he handles them a lot, they damage easily.He also tells her the play’s story of two people bonded together across different locations.

The film has a sense of calm with the haunting melody floating in and out. It explores highly metaphysical questions of soul connections. This film might not connect with viewers who favor realism.
A movie worth experiencing !


9 thoughts on ““The Double Life of Véronique” by Krzysztof Kieslowski

  1. Very intriguing movie indeed! Do you get to understand at the end, the supernatural aspect I mean? If not, does that fact add to the experience?
    The music is really beautiful and haunting.

    1. Actually, after I wrote my review, I happened to read one more on a blog I follow.. and what is interesting is the very different interpretation.
      If you interpret both the women to be symbolic representations of a need, then it takes the story on a very different tangent.
      There’s even one interpretation which likens it to the story of France and Poland where the Polish Weronka represents Poland !

  2. Good write up. As you have said, this movie should be appreciated for its emotional value and visceral images. At the same time, Kieslowski’s movies always has some hidden meanings within its story, which is hard to interpret for the first time. I think my interpretation of the characters and images in “Double Life of Veronique” is just one of many.

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