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Old 02-26-2009, 04:30 PM
Krzysztof Kieslowski's The Double Life of Véronique

The Double Life of Véronique (1991)

"All my life I've felt I was in two places at the same time," Véronique tells us in Krzysztof Kieslowski's "The Double Life of Véronique." For her, it's just a feeling that she has, one that she can't really explain to anyone. It's kind of like experiencing déjà-vu via another you, but it's absurd to think that there is another you out there without your knowledge, that's why Veronique's feeling remains just a feeling...until a photograph changes her perspective.

Weronika and Véronique, both played by Irène Jacob, are both aspiring singers, who are unaware of the others existence, except for a strange feeling that they are not alone. While performing a concert, Weronika collapses and dies on stage. Véronique, having not heard of the tragedy, suddenly gets the feeling that she doesn't want to be a singer anymore.

Then the film takes a very odd turn, it suddenly becomes about Véronique wanting to meet a marionette performer, Alexandre Fabbri (Philippe Volter), after a performance at her school where she is a music teacher. It turns out he is an author of children’s' books, which she reads. Through the stories, she begins to understand the significance of the items that have been anonymously sent to her; a piece of string and an empty cigar box. Then she gets a tape of what seems like random noises from a train stop. She takes these as clues and decides to see where they will take her...

This film was very misleading for about the first half hour as we follow Weronika around thinking that she is going to be the main character. It is not until a very startling scene that we finally realize that there is more than meets the eye. Weronika is walking through a square where it looks like some kind of protest or rally has just occurred. This is intercut with shots of Véronique taking pictures of the event. Weronika finally notices Véronique, who looks exactly like her, as she gets on the bus, continually taking pictures, but Véronique does not notice her.

When Weronika suddenly dies on stage, that strange connection between the two women acts as a warning against going down the same path, a story that will eerily be echoed at the end of the film. Véronique's life continues as normal, however, in another strange tie between the two women, we hear her music class playing the same piece that Weronika was singing when she died, telling us that this connection is not yet dissolved.

The scene where Véronique first sees Alexandre is done beautifully. While the whole audience is hypnotized over a magnificently choreographed and masterfully executed marionette performance, Véronique catches the sight of the puppeteer, Alexandre, in a nearby mirror. After a chance meeting at a red light, the packages begin. At first she doesn't understand what the shoestring means, but thanks to a friend who reads their child Alexandre's children’s' books, she learns that it is part of one of his stories. One night, she also receives a phone call with the same music from before playing in the background. Was it just that they happened to overhear it that day at school, or is there something more to it?

When she receives the tape and follows the clues, she meets Alexandre in Paris. He tells her it was research for a book he wants to write a book about a woman who responds to the calls of an unknown man. "Why me?" she asks. "I now know why you were the one. It was not the book." Alexandre says later. It becomes too easy to explain the whole situation away with it being destiny for them to meet, but that doesn't explain why it dealt with the whole issue of there being two women at the beginning.

After she dumps out the contents of her purse, he notices a photograph of her, at least someone who looks like her. He points it out to her. She is confused, and it's safe to say, a little frightened, but Alexandre is there to help her.

Their final scene together has Alexandre completing two dolls that look very much like Véronique. "Why two?" she asks. He tells her that they are easily damaged due to a lot of handling during performances, but we secretly know why there must be two. There has to be. Her meeting with this performer was no accident. It comes to be a fated meeting that would reveal her other side to her. As she handles the dolls, Alexandre echoes a similar story to what we saw in the first part of the film. This one involves a girl who burns her hand on a stove. The other one, on a different continent, is about to reach out and touch a stove, but pulls her hand back. How could the character know? How could Véronique know?

The film is kind of left open ended. We never really get any answers regarding what she thinks of seeing herself in that photograph that she took. But then again, how does one react to something as surprising as that? Perhaps she had a twin. Perhaps it was all in her head, though that kind of makes it hard to explain the photographic evidence. What we are left with in Véronique's last scene with Alexandre is that the connection between the two women is not one that is going to fade away easily.

The one problem that became prevalent in the film was that it didn't really allow us to get to know Weronika before she died on stage. There is a big deal made over the connection between the two during parts of the film, but we didn't really get much to draw on before the film shifted focus to Véronique. There should have been a larger space between the realization that there are two different women and Weronika's death so that there would be a better comparison personality-wise for later in the film. This way the "double life" would have stood out a lot more, allowing more exploration of the connection between the two characters.

This film was directed and co-written by Krzysztof Kieslowski, famous for directing the "Three Colors Trilogy: Blue, White, and Red," and "The Decalogue." It's interesting that this should be the film he directs right between those two projects. The character study of "The Decalogue" is shown very clearly with Weronika/Véronique, while there are hints of the loneliness of Juliette Binoche's character in "Blue." The third part of the trilogy, "Red," led to Kieslowski receiving two Oscar nominations. He did not win, but the three parts of the trilogy are still hailed as masterpieces. Everything ended up working out for him. The question is: How could Kieslowski know? 3/4 stars.

Last edited by Hal2001; 02-26-2009 at 07:25 PM..
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Old 03-05-2009, 06:55 PM
This is one of my favorite favorite movies. Thanks for re-visiting it.
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