The Double Life of Véronique (1991)

“Véronique: What else do you want to know about me?
Alexandre: Everything.”

‘The Double Life of Véronique’, directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski in 1991, is an allegorical love story and tragedy. Two identical women, one in Poland, one in France, sense one another across the distance. We follow the former as she trains to be a singer but dies on stage and then the latter as she is drawn towards a puppeteer and ultimately finds love. The two women are played by Irène Jacob, who brilliantly crafts each as a distinct character but one that shares an innocence and curiosity. Highlights include the beautiful, lush colour scheme: warm, romantic but slightly uncanny. This is a movie that looks like a work of art but not so ostentatiously that it distracts from the character study. It’s also full of the operatic music that each version of Véronique is obsessed by, a mesmerising and haunting piece that ties the two countries together. There are a number of themes that run through this film: the one the sprang immediately to my mind are the triple parallels between the puppeteer (luring the French girl towards him like one of his marionettes), God (the Polish girl’s death and ‘haunting’ of the French girl is rife with religious symbolism), and the director himself. It’s also tempting to see the different fates of the girls as an allegory for the fates of their countries. As with ‘Code Unknown’, this movie is centred around the perception of eastern Europe in France and here it’s even closer to the collapse of the Soviet Union. The different paths of each girl can potentially be seen as a symbolic reflection of the state of Poland, though it’s one of those parallels that could be taken too far. Overall this movie is worth watching for the perfectly judged synergy between the otherworldly cinematography, and the story of the doppelgängers: always on the edge but not quite over that supernatural line.

Would I recommend it? Yes, I preferred it to Kieślowsk’s ‘Three Colours Trilogy’, although now it makes me want to go back and rewatch it. Watch in a double-bill with ‘Code Unknown’ for the political subtexts.

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