The Double Life of Veronique DVD
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Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski
Produced in 1991
Main Language - French with English subtitles
A welcome and long-awaited DVD release of Kieslowski’s fascinating fable of shared identity. In 1966 two girls are born in two different European locations. Weronika and Veronique both lack mothers; both grow up into quietly self-possessed young women; and both experience similar sensations of being haunted by doubleness. They also share the same (weak) heart and the same rawly sensual creativity (which the film closely associates with death and self-destruction). A chance passing, an incidental photograph, means that Weronika and Veronique encounter one another. But while one woman’s recognition of herself in her double presages her death, the other lives on unaware, anxiously haunted by another self whose image hides unseen among the detritus of her bottomless handbag. Veronica (from the Latin vera icon—true image) is the name of the saint whose generous touch reproduced the face of Christ. Her doubling in this film suggests Kieslowski’s key concerns with authenticity, duplication and the (potentially) mystic: with the wonderful or numinous in the midst of the mundane. Irene Jacob plays both Veronicas with a distinctive, uncanny intensity, which conveys the strange unease of being occupied by another.
There is much about Veronique that is typical of Kieslowski of this period: the turn to intimacy and interiority, the preoccupation with possession and loss, and the importance of symbols (both marvellous and mundane), played out recurrently through the film’s narrative and soundtrack. But for all Kieslowski’s signature motifs, Veronique’s clashing of chance and purpose is most startlingly captured in Slawomir Idziak’s gorgeous cinematography—all slants and glimmers, shadows and reflections. Late-afternoon wisps of light play over Jacobs’ features searching out the secrets of her physiognomy, her identity. Around her, the business of the day goes on as usual, and somewhere just beyond her radiance is the darkness of the grave. Among all the magic and disquiet of this film, there is something deeply troubling about Veronique’s conventionally masochistic identification as a marionette under the control of a father/lover/puppeteer. And perhaps too, one might question the politics of emptying the large moral and national questions (with which all of Kieslowski’s films are engaged) into Jacobs’ lovely, luminous self-absorption. At its best though, this is a film of rare emotional power and extraordinary sensory affect, which quietly infects the viewer with the strangeness and beauty of the everyday.
Kieslowski's finest work. Irene Jacob plays the dual role of identical strangers Polish Weronika and French Véronique. The script is a masterpiece of structure, of resonances and dissonances carefully played out in sequence and parallel. It creates a standing wave outside of time with a spider's web of connections between characters and events that we can perhaps just catch out of the corner of the eye. And it is still a great, involving story. It's not really surprising (and somewhat reassuring) that it doesn't quite achieve perfection and it's also easy to understand why Kieslowski chose to go for the perfect simplicity of 'Three Colours' next. Zbigniew Preisner's haunting score is the perfect accompaniment.
Publisher: Artificial Eye
Length: 94 mins
Aspect ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen
Format: DVD Colour
Released: 24th April 2006
Cat No: ART321DVD
- 2 discs
- Conversation with Kieslowski
- Interview with Irene Jacob
- 'Kieslowski, Polish Filmmaker' documentary
- Short Films: 'The Musicians' (1958), 'Factory' (1970), 'Hospital' (1976), 'Railway Station' (1980).
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