The Double Life of Véronique

The Double Life of Véronique

There are many films I consider to be among my favorites. However, if I had to choose only one film to take with me on a one-way trip to a deserted island (with a small connected TV set), I’d choose La double vie de Véronique, even though longer films/series might be a smarter choice.

I felt like I owed it to the Letterboxd community to try to write a review. I don’t write reviews: if I write something it is usually something that does not have much to do with the film, but only with the experience of me watching it. Heck, why do you guys even bother to read it? So, I thought let’s try to write one review, not in the hope of writing more in the future, but in order to give something back. To share some positivity by articulating my take on this movie.

Every shot connects with me: from the wonderful opening shot, where we see the world upside down, to the closing shot – which I will not reveal – and each shot in between. This is a feel film. The thematic levels seem to have precedence over the narrative level. The flow in editing supports a certain sensibility and a thematic (but not necessarily narrative) continuity.

Where does reality end and fantasy come in? Does it matter? There is so much we don’t see if we limit ourselves to what we perceive to be reality and objectivity – or what might be a better description, to “serious” matters. Could one shared moment of gazing to the stars and fantasizing about distant galaxies not have more significance than making a career? Or one insightful joke more than a philosophical treatise?

For me, Kieślowski unifies this apparent contradiction between reality and fantasy and creates outlook that has much similarities with mine, where fantasy blends in with events that happen around us, in a playful and harmless way. For example, in the scene where she receives the cigarette case, they are in perfect unison (at least, that is my interpretation). It is the feeling approach to the world. It may have its drawbacks, but I can identify with it.

The cinematography is spellbinding, not only in what I would call a formal, or technical way like Nykvist’s Offret or Almendros’ Days of Heaven, but also in a gentle way that tends to magical realism. We view the world through a different prism, as it were, a theme that reappears many times throughout its 97 minute runtime. Other themes are existentialism and predestination.

Nevertheless, for me the central theme is connectedness. It is about what unites us. What unites you, who is reading this, and me who is writing it; no matter our differences. The most obvious connection is between Weronika and Véronique. Yet there is more, like the ethereal connection between Véronique and the puppeteer. Where it really comes together for me is at the very end of the film. I will not go into details for anyone who might have missed its significance.

The music by Zbigniew Preisner is very beautiful. I have a soft spot for singing in films (among other weaknesses) and there are some fantastic scenes in that regard. I do not know enough about linguistics to support this thought, but I suspect singing predates even some forms of spoken language. For me, it is something that is fundamentally intertwined with both the human condition and with expressing that condition.

Still, even though the combination of these aspects alone would probably make it a favorite film, I think Kieślowski ’s masterpiece really stands out for me kindness-wise, gentleness-wise, childlike-wise, acceptance-wise, compassion-wise, magic-wise, love-wise and otherwise-wise, to use the wording of a famous Wilder movie. If a movie gets those things right, I appreciate that so much. Those are rare qualities indeed, but so valuable: not only in film, but also in real life.

I have to remember to mention Irene Jacob at least once for her stunning portrayal of the film’s protagonists. Everything comes together in her performance and very genuine and intimate portrayal of femininity, sexuality and humanness. I could immediately identify with Weronika and Véronique and every small gesture seems to contribute to that. It felt as if I was part of the film. Fore some that might sound trivial, but for me it means something as I rarely experience that so consciously.

Even though my gratitude comes too late, as Kieślowski has already left us, I am very grateful for his direction. As if he made this film especially for me, there are even references to ballet and chess (via a chess board in one of the scenes). Thank you. And to everyone who contributed to it in some way, thank you too. This is a very special film for me.

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