La Double Vie de Véronique

Trailer for The Double Life of Veronique (video via youtube.com)

This is an exceptionally poor trailer for a remarkably good film, Krzystof Kieślowski‘s The Double Life of Veronique (La double vie de Véronique). I watched it for the second time a few nights ago and was dazzled all over again. Irène Jacob, who also stars in Kieślowski’s Red (Three Colors Trilogy), plays both leads, Weronika, a spritual and somewhat mysterious Polish soprano, and her doppelgänger, Veronique, an often melancholic French music instructor. Both women are intuitive and inexorably fueled by conviction and curiosity. Despite intriguing bookends to the film in which Weronika and Veronique overlap obliquely for a few seconds, their lives echo — almost rhyme — without knowing one another. The audience is left to decipher the uncanny link between them.

Cover of

Cover of The Double Life of Veronique

Despite Kieślowski’s death in 1996, his films continue to provide essential oases in the Hollywood-saturated film industry. He ignores dramatic cliches and conventions in favor of a more stripped-down, more honest storytelling. As drawn to character as to plot (if not more so) Kieślowski invites us to wonder and question and yearn. The Double Life of Veroniqueis filled with this yearning. What am I talking about? In Annette Insdorf’s film commentary packaged with the Criterion Collection DVD of the film, she describes “rich characters moving through landscapes and situations that force them to grapple with something beyond their immediate circumstances…” Insdorf, a professor in the Graduate Film Program of Columbia University’s School of the Arts and author of the Kieślowski biography Double Lives, Second Chances returns to this idea in an interview with the Columbia University Record:

“you’re made aware that there is something more at work than what the eye can see. At the risk of sounding fuzzy, I’ll suggest that there is a spiritual dimension embedded in his sensual textures… There’s a kind of yearning nostalgia for a world beyond the reach of the characters.”

Kieślowski’s unique screenwriting, directing and editing are complemented in The Double Life of Veronique by Zbigniew Preisner‘s mesmerizing operatic composition. This ethereal, haunting score weaves Weronika and Veronique’s parallel stories — as well as several layers of storytelling (puppeteering, children’s fiction, adult fiction, musical performance) — into a hypnotic and haunting tapestry. A tapestry that can be taken down from the wall when the film ends and taken to a chair by the hearth, wrapped around you while you ponder what you’ve just experienced, while you hum and question in the afterglow. Unless, of course, you can’t resist the temptation to leave the tapestry on the wall to watch all over again. I did!

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