The Double Life of Veronique


The Double Life of Veronique Review

Before he made hism Three Colors trilogy (Blue, White, and Red), Krzysztof Kieslowski made what might have been the crowning achievement of a distinguished career. I say "might" because The Double Life of Veronique is a difficult film that, even after several viewings, doesn't give up its secrets easily. It is also one of those rare films that, when you get down to it, isn't really about anything at all. The film's meaning is held in what you, the viewer, decide to read into it.

That's fitting, because Veronique is a film all about subjectivity. The setup is simple. What follows is not. Here's the idea that Kieslowski sat down with when deciding to make the film: Two women look identical and have similar lives, despite living in different countries. They are both even named Veronique, almost. Veronique (Irène Jacob) is a French woman who aspires to be a concert hall vocalist. Weronika (also Jacob, of course) is a Polish woman, a singer as well. They are born on the same day and even share a medical condition, which leads Veronique to drop dead on the eve of her big break.

This is 30 minutes into the movie.

What follows is the story of Weronika, who never really meets Veronique, but whose life impacts hers in mysterious and profound ways. Naturally there are issues of mistaken identity, but Kieslowski is too clever to try to make a film about that. He spins a tale that sets Weronika on a journey of discovery, revolving eventually around a secret admirer who sends her an anonymous tape in the mail. It is later revealed he is a puppeteer... when he makes one in the image of Weronika, he builds two, of course. Just in case.

Ultimately, there are no real lessons in The Double Life of Veronique. Like its twin heroines, it is a mystery without a real solution. Why are those two women intertwined? There's no answer in the film, and viewers trying to puzzle it out will be left grasping for straws or throwing out theories with no real basis for them. Just, "Here's what I think..." speculation pulled from one orifice or another. But I like to think that, for Kieslowski, that's perfectly OK. The film is completely open ended, almost to a fault. (The new Criterion two-disc DVD set includes the U.S. ending, which is a bit longer and a bit less open, and you are free to extrapolate from it.) Enjoy the film, let it wash over you. With the lush visuals -- shot frequently in reflections or through optical oddities like a glass sphere -- you won't have any trouble with that.

The DVD set also includes commentary from a Kieslowski scholar, three of the director's short films, plus one from his teacher, two documentaries about Kieslowski, an interview with Jacob from 2005, and more, including a small book of essays on the film.

Aka La Double vie de Véronique.

Sleepy head.

The Double Life of Veronique

Facts and Figures

Run time: 98 mins

In Theaters: Friday 22nd November 1991

Distributed by: Criterion Collection

Reviews 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Fresh: 22 Rotten: 4

IMDB: 7.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Producer: Leonardo De La Fuente

Starring: as Weronika/Véronique, Halina Gryglaszewska as La Tante, as Alexandre Fabbri, Guillaume de Tonquédec as Serge, Kalina Jędrusik as La femme barjolée, as Le chef d'orchestre, Władysław Kowalski as Le père de Weronika, Jerzy Gudejko as Antek, Janusz Sterninski as L'avocat, Sandrine Dumas as Catherine, Louis Ducreux as Le professeur, as Le père de Véronique, Lorraine Evanoff as Claude, Gilles Gaston-Dreyfus as Jean-Pierre, Alain Frérot as Le facteur, Youssef Hamid as Le cheminot, Thierry de Carbonnières as Le prof, as La réceptionniste, Nausicaa Rampony as Nicole, Boguslawa Schubert as La femme au chapeau, Jacques Potin as L'homme au manteau gris