Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The Double Life of Veronique

Year:  1991
Director:  Krzysztof Kieslowski
Screenplay:  Krzysztof Piesiewicz and Krzysztof Kieslowski
Starring:  Irene Jacob, Philippe Volter, Jerzy Gudjeko, Halina Gryglaszewska
Running Time:  98 minutes
Genre:  Drama

This fascinating film from acclaimed Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski tells the story of two physically identical young women:  Weronika (Jacob) lives in Poland and Veronique (Jacob again) lives in France.  Despite the difference in their backgrounds, the two women despite having no knowledge of each other, lead remarkably similar lives.  They share similar personalities, the same likes and dislikes, the same strengths and weaknesses, as well as the same great talent for music.  If one feels ill, the other shares her pain, and if one makes mistakes, the other seems to know not to make the same mistake.

It's almost impossible to really narrate the plot of this film, and there isn't really much point in doing so, because the story isn't important.  This film is strange, mysterious and enigmatic.  It offers many possibilities but gives no conclusions.  It tackles themes such as free will, predestination and the role that chance plays in human lives.  There is a strong supernatural element in the film (the story echoes the old superstition of the doppleganger - a person's exact double which, according to the legend, foretells death or at least dire misfortune for anyone unlucky enough to encounter their own doppleganger).  However the supernatural element is never explained or even discussed.

Visually, the movie is staggeringly beautiful.  Kieslowski bathes his images in green, red and yellow light, and every frame of the film is expertly composed.  The film uses fluid camera movements, and features many scenes shot through windows, mirrors, and distorting glass, creating many bizarre and surreal images.  The reflections also work for the film's themes of duality.  The look of the film, and the haunting, memorable score by Zbigniew Preisner, which is also an important element in the film's plot, create an ethereal atmosphere of heart-breaking beauty.

Key to the success of the film is the performance of Irene Jacob who is on screen almost constantly throughout the film.  She does great work with a difficult double role, Kieslowski's camera seems almost infatuated with her classical and almost fragile beauty, constantly shot in almost luminous light and framed to accentuate her features. 

This is a mesmerising, powerful movie, although it's virtually plotless nature, lack of explanations and constant mysterious and enigmatic nature will likely turn off many viewers.  However if you give it a chance, and go with it's rhythms, you'll find it haunting you for days afterwards.

Irene Jacob reflects on The Double Life of Veronique        

No comments:

Post a Comment