Directed by: Krzysztof Kieślowski
Written by: Krzysztof Kieślowski & Krzysztof Piesiewicz
Starring: Irène Jacob, Philippe Volter, Sandrine Dumas, Aleksander Bardini, Louis Ducreux
Like an incomplete dream, there are things in life that occur without explanation. It may seem like an illusion, yet feels as real as the grass in a field. This unyielding connection between two women offers more questions than answers but does so in such a beautifully poetic way.
Very talented vocalist Weronika (Irène Jacob) gets an amazing opportunity when she nails an audition to sing with an orchestra. During her commute in the city, she sees a tour bus that has someone who looks exactly like her. With that occurrence, the story shifts to the apparent doppelganger named Veronique, who happens to live in France.
Films like The Double Life of Veronique stand on their own as visual wonders in the way it says so much while the dialogue says very little. Moments of happenstance contain more meaning than we’re led to believe and what appears to be a mystery becomes a beautifully ambiguous experience. The connection between Weronika and Veronique cannot be explained and the film purposefully does not attempt to do just that. The beauty lies in the feeling and how it impacts both women in the singular moment where they see each other and the aftermath of it.
While these women look extremely similar, their differences are quite stark due to where they live and the volatility of that environment. Weronika resides in Poland, where civil unrest runs through the streets, which can be seen when Weronika sees Veronique. A stunning visual seeing the delicate Polish woman standing and looking at the tour bus while riot police stand in formation waiting to quell any uprising. The delicacy Weronika wields shows itself through her collisions where she drops her papers and the defining sequence that takes place when she sings. Even with it, she possesses a commanding singing voice that cannot be denied by even the harshest critics. This story feels much more direct in how the story progresses and concludes definitively, which cannot be said when the story shifts to Veronique in France.
Veronique has a more aimless approach in life, which living in France has afforded. She views the coincidences in life and follows them to discover what may be waiting for her. The narrative that forms around her brings more emotional pull to the story because the narrative uses her to examine this unspoken connection. Something she cannot explain because she doesn’t even see Weronika on the day she spent in Poland. It’s not about what she sees, but how she feels, which says plenty about the different narrative styles of their two stories. Once again, showing that everything around them defines their circumstance, which then leads to their eventual fate.
Portraying both women is Irène Jacob, who has the tough task of creating two distinct characters with several similarities. Jacob captures the focus of Weronika and the pensive nature of Veronique that makes each of them unique in their own ways. She differentiates them in the smallest details with how she takes in the information given to her and how she delivers their lines. A beautifully moving performance, which brings forth the duality of this story and tenderly brings these two women into the forefront of the narrative.
Co-writer/director Krzysztof Kieślowski crafts such a beautiful film and his focus on emotion rather than a simple plot demonstrates his ability to work on a different level. The visual language in the film breathes life on the beautifully crafted canvas of both cities. The filter utilized allows other colors to pop on the screen like with red. This color really shows itself in the moment where Weronika sees Veronique. The clothing defines both women and the definitive nature of it helps one of them come to a profound conclusion.
The beauty of this film comes from how loving this unknowing connection becomes for both women. In a moment that should cause mysterious intrigue on the part of Weronika seeing Veronique on the bus, only exhibits a beautiful bond that was never going to materialize. It appears with how Weronika lovingly smiles instead of presenting a look of concern to see someone that looks exactly like her. That smile says it all and Veronique’s realization moments come as a mixture of relief and pain that Irène Jacob beautifully brings forth.
There aren’t many films like The Double Life of Veronique. It feels like its own immaculate idea deftly handled by a talented group of artists. Something that never loses its message or meaning. This film opens itself up for different analysis but the connection between the women remains. A defining work of art that left me nearly speechless when the closing credits arrived because it left me with so much to process. At the time of this review, I’m still not sure I can adequately express everything it made me think or feel.