Dir: Krzysztof Kieslowski
‘La double vie de Veronique’ is a yet another gem by Kieslowski. It is recommended that you watch this before you attempt the Troi Couleurs trilogy. However, I happened to fall in the spell of the trilogy first. The Double Life…is the story of two girls Weronika and Veronique, both played by Irene Jacob. One of them lives in Poland and the other in France. Both of them have some major similarities; they are singers, budding artists, and full of life. But, they both have a heart condition. No matter how similar they might look, they have different lives.
Kieslowski, yet again, keeps his calm with the portrayal of the characters and the emotional depth is tangible. We are shown Weronika’s story first. She lives with her father and loves visiting her Aunt from time to time. She is jovial by nature, optimistic, but confused. She has a strange theory that she is never alone, even when she is.
One day, she sees herself boarding a bus on the streets of Poland, clicking pictures with some friends. She is surprised but does not approach her. What will you do if you see yourself? This is the first time in the film, the double lives are revealed to us.
Just when things are going well for Weronika, her heart condition aggravates and she collapses during her first performance on stage. She dies.
Trying to avoid any confusion between the two different characters, we are now taken to the life of Veronique. Unaware if Weronika ever existed, she feels the same bond, which once existed between them, broken. Weronika’s death leaves her feeling lonely. An impalpable bond between two human beings living in two different countries is beautifully expressed by a short, yet important part of the film as Weronika’s story.
Veronique decides not to be a singer and starts teaching. In the meantime, she meets a mysterious man, who sends her clues through the mail in order to meet her. As she tries to put together one of the pieces of his puzzles, which happens to be a tape recording, Veronique traces the exact place where the recording was done. In the hope of some revelations, she is excited about her meeting with this mysterious man. When it turns out to be just a meeting with her admirer, probably in love with her. Though the feelings are mutual, her disappointment is evident. She fails to find out the answers to thousands of questions about her life, just as the film does.
The film asks thousands of questions and then answers some of them. Others are left unanswered, just the way they are; just like life.
As Veronique pursues her love with this man, he points out a photograph she clicked some time back in Poland. A million doubts and disappointments rise in her mind. The complexity of a mind and how it deals with mixed feelings is the hardest part to express on screen. Kieslowski is the master of such emotional display.
In the pre-climax, Veronique wakes up in her lover’s apartment and we feel a strange familiarity with the place. Her lover shows her the new puppets he made. These are her puppets and he made two of them. No matter how much it bothers Veronique deep within, she watches her lover display a small performance. As he dances the Veronique puppet on his fingers, the other puppet lays motionless on the table beside, as if dead.
Like the Troi Couleurs, which represented the French flag: Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity; The Double Life of Veronique, supposedly, represents the relationship between Poland and France.
At one side Weronika, representing Poland’s sacrifice in WWII, dies an early death. Whereas Veronique, unaware of Weronika’s existence, feels this loss every day she lives for the rest of her life.