The Double Life of Véronique

The Double Life of Véronique ★★★★

Film #8 of 30 in my March Around The World | 2015 Challenge

This was my first exposure to the work of Poland's highly acclaimed writer-director Krzysztof Kieslowski. I had heard only good things about this film, and I'm glad I took the opportunity offered by this challenge to give it a look.

Lovely Swiss actress Irène Jacob plays the lead here, taking on two roles. We first meet her as a Polish girl named Weronika, a choir soprano whose fortuitous audition in Krakow puts her on the verge of becoming a professional soloist. She has a loving boyfriend called Antek (Jerzy Gudejko), a caring single father with whom she lives, and a supportive aunt who serves as her confidante. Weronika's life seems to be blossoming nicely, and she tells her father that lately she feels she's "not alone in the world."

Jacob also portrays a Parisian music teacher named Véronique. The two look-alikes are brought into proximity only very briefly when Véronique visits Krakow as part of a sightseeing tour. Weronika glimpses her French double from a distance, while Véronique unintentionally snaps a photo of her Polish doppleganger from the bus window, but otherwise the women never actually meet. Instead, they seem to have some kind of unexplained psychic connection, whereby they each feel the presence of the other and have perhaps even learned from each other's experiences since childhood, but without any contact -- a kind of intuition.

"All my life I've felt like I was here and somewhere else at the same time." ~ Véronique

In the second and third acts, the camera focuses on Véronique, her relationship with her father (Claude Duneton) and her attraction to a certain puppeteer/author named Alexandre Fabbri (Philippe Volter). There's an element of fantasy, mystery and portent throughout, as Kieslowski invites us to feel our way through the story along with his titular character. There are lots of close-ups, emphasis on detail, lighting and reflections, and the repeated viewing of scenes through various lenses and windows. It can be quite a metaphysical experience.

I was fortunate to have the Criterion Collection DVD to watch, which contains an alternate ending created for the U.S. theatrical release. I must admit, I prefer the extended version with its four additional scenes; it is far less ambiguous than the original abrupt ending.

Worthy of note, Jacob was honored at Cannes as the Best Actress of 1991, while Kieslowski picked up two awards -- the FIPRESCI Prize and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury. It's an excellent film, and one I'm sure I will enjoy watching again.

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