The Double Life of Véronique

The Double Life of Véronique ★★★★½

Speaking to Kieslowski’s The Double Life of Véronique (1991), cultural theorist Justin Derry contends that the incorporeal affect which is the film’s narrative and stylistic origin forgoes answering or transcending intersubjective relations, but rather, seeks only to speak to the known experiences of one’s own life. In this respect, when Kieslowski himself states that the film is “about sensibility, presentiments and relationships that are difficult to name, that are irrational… [about] something that doesn’t exist in the picture alone or in the music alone” he places this quality within the realm of mysticism, and moreover, refers to a set of phenomena which supersede and construct the particular subject relation of women seeking to relate to one another beyond words (Stok 1993:34). This relationality embedded within Kieslowski is a valuable concept for understanding what exactly the image of the woman is able to do within the misogynist visual language of film that truly reads as subversive: mainly, talk to other women. The two figures centered by the plot, Weronika (Irène Jacob), and Véronique (Irène Jacob once more) do not know each other. They never speak, and the closest they get to even once seeing each other is a powerful yet unbeknownst alignment of chance. They are of course, however, the single subject of the film together. Like the marionettes of Alexandre Fabbri’s (Philippe Volter) children’s shows, they are bound by the potentiality of performance. When one is being visually used, the other lies inert, collapsed on stage or set on a table. Kieslowski’s inspired instance on the centrality of music to the affective experience allows shared motifs to be extremely subtle. The song Weronika sings before her death becomes a haunting refrain on the verge of narrative oblivion. One gets the sense that the imminent death of most import was not her physical collapse, but the guarantee of the camera eventually cutting away. Without these bonds, without a way to live outside of the cruel modes of visual representation, women’s abuse at the hands of visual pleasure is nothing more than nonvisual torture.

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