The Double Life of Véronique

The Double Life of Véronique ★★★★★

'The Double Life of Veronique' is a film of unspeakable beauty. The physical beauty of Irene Jacobs, the artistic beauty of Krzysztof Kieslowski and the gorgeous red, yellow, brown and green hue's that permeate through every shot. The films central conceit revolves around the idea that Veronique is guided by a second version of herself, that see somehow knows what to do in advance of doing it. It is haunting and sad but at the same time there is so much warmth, love and zest for life in this film too!

It is Weronika (Irene Jacob) that we first become acquainted with. She is a talented singer, living in Krakow, Poland. She is is heard singing by a member of a prestigious school who ask her to audition. It is clear though that Weronika has a heart condition and when she overexerts herself she clearly suffers as a result. She has also met a man who she falls in love with, she even chases after him in the street to be with him, another way of overexerting herself. She is passionate about life and dares to achieve and experience things despite the physical ailment brought upon her. It is pursuing these dreams and loves that ultimately costs her her life. There are moments of pure joy in this segment though, like when she is singing at the beginning, it begins to rain and everyone breaks for cover, not Weronika, she joyously sings proudly as the rain pours down her face. When bouncing a ball up at the ceiling she lets the dust wash over her face, she embraces this moment, it is a unique moment that could not have happened if she hadn't bounced the ball as hard as she did. Then there is the moment she is singing for the people at the music school where she wraps her finger around some rope as she does so, as if she was so tangled in what she was doing. There is also an element to Weronika where she fears what could become of life, she see's an old lady carrying heavy bags and offers to help, although the old lady refuses. To me I read it as Weronika's fear of growing old, the fear that life could be an unbearable struggle lacking in any joyfulness.

Before her tragic passing she spots Veronique boarding a coach she looks the same, has the same heart condition and has the same talent for singing but she is more cautious in her approach to life. Weronika feels the connection but cannot piece it together. Later we begin our journey with Veronique as she is making love and confessing that she feels a sense of briefing but for no apparent reason. Veronique has lost a part of her, her guiding light so to speak, she is not consciously aware of this link but she does make decisions based on intuition that comes from this link between the two, highlighted in the fact that she decides to quit singing.

The film is undoubtedly visually poetic, Kieslowski's artistic sensibilities lend the film an impressionistic quality. The music in the film is absolutely gorgeous too! It is hard to put into words my true feelings for the films beauty and sadness but it leaves me aching by the end. I have seen the film three times now and every time I see it my feelings for it only improve although my overall ability to express why that is is lacking. I guess it largely comes down to the breathtakingly beautiful Irene Jacobs, mixed with the gorgeously poetic visuals but I do feel something when watching the film, it isn't purely an aesthetic pleasure. Like I said at the top the film has a haunting element to it, I feel sad for Veronique because Weronika's life has had such an untold influence on her own without her consciously knowing it. When she loses that part of her she seems at a loss as to how to feel. But what develops is a story or game in which she pursues/is pursued by a puppeteer. He sends her tapes of sounds and she deciphers them to learn of his location. The pair end up together, something that may not have happened if it weren't for Weronika's death. She is no longer tethered to this unseen guide. Of course as the film concludes Veronique and the puppeteer come across a photo of Weronika which is mistaken for one of Veronique by the puppeteer. It only comes to confirm to her that there was always someone out there think what she felt, feeling what she feels. The puppeteer then builds a story around it, "The Double Life of...", he doesn't give it a name but he doesn't have to.

If my notion of this film isn't exactly correct it doesn't really matter, Kieslowski had never intended for the film to have a definitive conclusion as to what it all means, it is the very definition of an ambiguous film and thus it retains a powerful mysterious quality that makes it an incredibly alluring prospect to revisit over and over again. There is one reasoning though that is very interesting that I recently read about pertaining to Kieslowski's life on both sides of the Iron Curtain, on one side of the coin he saw hope and love and on the other he saw a cold and gloomy existence. This does mirror the two sides to the character of Weronika/Veronique. It isn't important to know this element though, in fact maybe it is best to believe what ever you like about the film as Kieslowski's original idea was to create numerous different versions of the film for each theatre it was shown in. Of course it was impossible to achieve this but it perfectly highlights the intentions of this film. For me it is achingly beautiful, sad, haunting, mysterious and visually rich and that's just Irene Jacob.

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