The Double Life of Véronique

The Double Life of Véronique ★★★★★

Krzysztof Kieslowski’s filmography almost in its entirety can be found within my blind spot, a deadly sin I have been living with for a very long time (especially when one takes into account my Polish roots). However, I have now decided to rectify this inadequacy and slowly work my way through his films.

The Double Life Of Veronique, one of Kieslowski’s later efforts, represents the type of cinema that truly resonates at my frequencies. It’s difficult to characterise using one simple word, but it succeeds in finding brilliant balance between telling a compelling story, tapping into some complex thematic space, commenting upon the greater context of the story and mixing in some elements of magical realism that lifts the entire narrative onto a completely different plane of analysis; and all that is achieved while staying firmly distanced from artsy directorial indulgences that may look nice and mysterious but don’t add anything to the experience. Perhaps Olivier Assayas would come closest to being a genuine point of comparison for Kieslowski’s work, at least as far as contemporary filmmakers are concerned; however, one needs to be aware of a very strong connection between him and Ingmar Bergman, who may have also more directly influenced his filmmaking.

Nonetheless, The Double Life Of Veronique is a masterpiece of the cinematic art form, a genre-defying excursion to a plane of existence punctuated by supernatural occurrences and mechanics that illuminate very important aspects of the human condition. This complex duplex of narratives sees a pair of characters, Veronique and Weronika, whose lives are linked by an invisible thread that gives them both a sense of belonging. However, as the events of the story unfold, Kieslowski (together with his frequent collaborator Krzysztof Piesiewicz) suggests his interests may not be solely confined to exploring the definition of identity. He hints at his desire to analyse and maybe even challenge the notion of free will as he continues to establish planes of symmetry between the lives of his two leads. This experiment eventually leads him to postulate that maybe our personalities are not solely our own and that we may be sharing aspects of our earthly experience with other people who in turn inform our choices.

This thematic expedition into truly difficult territory is additionally elevated by Kieslowski’s masterful execution, deployment of colour and cinematography by Slawomir Idziak, and - last but not least - amazing use of music by Zbigniew Preisner that offer additional points of convergence for the two narrative strands of the film. Taken together, The Double Life Of Veronique is nothing short of an unforgettable cinematic experience, a mesmerising tour de force of artistic expression and intellectual titillation.

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