Starring: Irène Jacob, Philippe Volter, Wladyslaw Kowalski
Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski
Running Time: 98 mins
The Double Life Of Véronique (La double vie de Véronique/Podwójne życie Weroniki) is a French/Polish film about two identical women, Véronique and Weronika, who have never seen each other before, and live on opposite sides of Europe. However, they are subtly connected in every part of their lives.
This film doesn’t actually make much sense. It’s a bizarre and mystic story that mixes fantasy and the real world wherever possible, and it makes for a truly confusing watch. That said, Krzysztof Kieslowski’s directing, along with Irène Jacob’s central performance, give the film a hauntingly poetic atmosphere, by far the film’s most impressive and exciting feature, making it a hugely captivating experience.
Let’s start off with the story (or whatever I can make of the story). The film is split into two parts – first looking at the the life of Weronika, who lives in Kraków. Although significantly shorter than the second part, Weronika’s story is absolutely stunning. Whilst it appears that her life is on the up with a series of successful singing auditions, Kieslowski gives her story a very dark and unnerving tone.
Throughout, Weronika is shaded by dark, ominous colours, but the most powerful part of her story is the various scenes where we see her singing opera. As beautiful as the music is, Kieslowski’s ingenious ability to turn down all sound around her (but for a few deep musical tones) gives her voice a truly haunting tone, and it really contributes to that sense of unease as we watch her story unfold. It’s a bizarre opening to the film, but it packs a real punch that gets you hooked until the end.
Now we move onto the second part of the film, the life of Véronique in Paris. In comparison to Weronika’s story, this isn’t quite as powerful or poetic, but it’s still a beautifully-told story that’s enthralling to watch. Working as a music teacher, Véronique becomes embroiled in a complicated love affair with a man she’s never met.
I won’t spoil anything, so all I’ll say is that the romance follows a slightly more coherent path than Weronika’s life earlier on, but still breaks for a series of truly bizarre moments of fantasy where Véronique and Weronika’s lives appear to be linked in the smallest of ways.
That’s a much more common theme throughout the second part of the movie, and although it’s not necessarily the most believable element, it fits in beautifully within the film’s abstract and fluid tone. I may not have been hooked on the idea of the two doppelgangers, but the way that Kieslowski brings the story to light is enthralling, thanks to his brilliant use of music and colours.
Finally, we’ve got to talk about Irène Jacob in the leading role(s). Véronique and Weronika are two different people, and Jacob shows that first and foremost. It’s not as if we’re just watching the same person do the same performance but under a different name, rather seeing Jacob give a different show as the two women, whilst bringing their similarities to attention. The two seem immediately similar given that they’re physically identical, but Jacob does a fantastic job to give them very similar yet still distinct personalities throughout.
Overall, I was hugely impressed by The Double Life Of Véronique. I may not have been able to fully comprehend some of the more abstract and bizarre elements of the film, but Kieslowski’s artistic style that brings a graceful yet haunting tone to the film makes it a truly compelling watch, and that’s why it gets a 7.9 from me.