“The Double Life of Veronique” – Chris Luedtke

Imagine taking two jigsaw puzzles of the same picture but with slightly different pieces and mixing them together in one box. Trying to put them together is going to be difficult, but the same picture will emerge if one gives enough patience and time to the trial at hand. The Double Life of Veronique can be better understood as a challenging puzzle of two psyches in two people that could easily be mistaken as mirror images.

For those that do know director Krzysztof Kieslowski, he’d be better known for the masterful “Three Colors Trilogy” (Blue, White, and Red). The Double Life of Veronique serves as an impressive prelude to those films. Irène Jacob portrays both Weronika and Véronique, two girls that don’t know the other exists but are mirror images of each other. When Weronika collapses during her first musical performance, Véronique’s life takes a turn, and she decides not to become a singer. Venturing out into the world and desiring change, she begins to pick up on the remnants of her double’s life, including objects and lovers.

The Double Life of Veronique is flat out beautiful and melancholy. The cinematography reminded me heavily of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie and may very well have served to inspire director Jeunet. In fact, there are a lot of similarities between the two. Characters in both are very vibrant, and camera colorization is extremely similar. However, director Kieslowski is much more experimental with his camera shots, often giving new meaning to a scene by shooting from odd perspectives. Hearing the sound of people screaming around me after Weronika collapses will always haunt me when thinking of this film.

Sadly, I often don’t notice, remember, or even note the music in most of the films I see. The Double Life of Veronique really had standout music, though; it has a soundtrack that I would hail as masterful in setting the mood. The opera soundtrack isn’t something I’ve heard much of or seen used very often, but in here it is vibrant and just flat-out amazing. The little things in The Double Life of Veronique are what count. The thing that made me realize this most was when Weronika began twisting a string around her finger. Watching closely, I began to ask myself what possible significance that could have in the film. Alas, it was brought up later and brought more into the film’s concentration on small details. Pausing here, I began to recall A Very Long Engagement (yet another Jeunet film), specifically the strong similarities between these two and attention to small details.

Characters are what bring out the plot in The Double Life of Veronique, and I think this film is just more proof that a film is better when it’s character-driven rather than event-driven. While there are events that do drive some of Kieslowski’s film, the characters are often more times the ones that act. Irène Jacob brings out amazing emotion within both Véronique’s and the short-lived Weronika. Often times, I felt like I just wanted to give both these characters a great big hug because the feeling was just so real.

The Double Life of Veronique certainly isn’t for everyone. It’s slow-paced and quite artsy throughout. To those willing to give it the time of day, I say go for it. If you liked Blue and Amélie, you’ll find yourself directly amongst the factions of cuteness, cruelty, depression, and splendor. Not all the pieces fit together, but some of it works better in a vague, nonsensical fashion.

Rating: ★★★½

-Chris Luedtke

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