Friday, April 18, 2008

The Double Life of Véronique

La double vie de Véronique; Drama, France/ Poland/ Norway, 1991; S: Krzysztof Kieślowski, S: Irène Jacob, Halina Gryglaszewska, Kalina Jedrusik, Phillippe Volter, Aleksander Bardini, Wladyslaw Kowalski, Jerzy Gudejko, Janusz Sterninski

Weronika is a young girl who wants to become a singer in Poland. One day she spots a girl in a bus who looks exactly like her, Veronique, who lives in France. During her first concert, Weronika dies from a heart condition. At the same time, Veronique senses there is something wrong and decides to quit her singing career, finding a job as a teacher in school. She meets the puppet player Alexandre and falls in love with him. They meet in a cafe. He tells her his new story, about two identical women who live on the opposite sides of the world and don't know about each other.

Krzysztof Kieslowski directed this meditative, minimalistic and highly suggestive art-drama, "The Double Life of Veronique", nominated for a Golden Globe as best foreign language film and for the Golden Palm in Cannes, where the magnificent Irene Jacob won the best actress award. The movie is beautiful and brilliant until the end where the viewer realizes it has one crushing problem - it has a story. And it remains unused. Truly, when nothing is going on, the movie is fantastic, acting like poetry that lives just from small nuances and vignettes - Veronique lying in bed when all of a sudden she is illuminated by a beam of light, a reflection from the mirror from the neighboring window; the upside down image of the town seen through the glass marvel; the melancholic music. Everything seems to fit, but when the viewer becomes aware that the film actually has a plot, revolving around two identical women - Weronika and Veronique - who don't know about each other, and Kieslowski just let's the endless possibilities just die, it seems like he cheated. Maybe they are symbol for Yin and Yang, maybe for two people living in different societies and thus different worldviews, but when Weronika dies already some 20 minutes into the film, the story becomes pointless. I thought that it would be a story that cuts back and forth between the two Veronica's, two parallel stories that go side by side and then come to some brilliant conclusion. Instead, sadly, it seems there is more imagination in Alexandre's 2 page story told near the end of the film, where he says how two women lived on opposite sides of the world, but actually sensed each other's existence.


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