Friday, December 4, 2009

#414: The Double Life of Veronique (1991)

Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski
Cast: Irène Jacob

(Sorry about the bad quality on the trailer, it's the only version I could find that doesn't suck.)

Have you ever felt like you somehow aren't quite complete? And I don't mean that in the sense of the search for a soulmate. I mean, you felt like you yourself are somehow in two different places at once. Well, Véronique of Paris has felt that way her whole life, and Weronika of Krakow would be able to tell her why. Weronika was walking along Market Square in Krakow when she sees herself boarding a bus full of tourists.

I wish I could give more to the synopsis. This movie is brilliant, but there's really no way to put it into words. Even though I could say that not much happens in the plot, I can't deny that my eyes were glued to the TV. The feeling evoked from the film is absolutely haunting - and that's a word I use sparsely ( -- it's also one of my favorite words!).

Through Irène Jacob's performance, the audience is put into a constant state of unease. We are immediately in league with Véronique and can sense every nuance of her emotional state, and everyone else is a mystery. There are even characters that we see multiple times, watching Véronique, and we never learn who it is that's watching her.

I would normally be ashamed of myself to leave the post here, but reading other reviews, I know that this is one of the hardest films to write about. I could sit here for weeks trying to come up with something without success. All I can say is, this is a beautiful movie that instills feelings in me that no other film has. Will certainly be looking up more of Kieslowski's works.

Fun Trivia (Stolen from IMDB):
  • Kieslowski originally wanted Andie MacDowell to play Veronique.
  • The text sung by Weronika in the Concert is actually the beginning of the second Chant of Dante's Paradiso: "O voi che siete in piccioletta barca, desiderosi d'ascoltar, seguiti dietro al mio legno che cantando varca, Non vi mettete in pelago, ché forse, perdendo me, rimarreste smarriti. L'acqua ch'io prendo giá mai non si corse; Minerva spira è conducemi Appollo, è nove Muse mi dimostran l'Orse." Dante, Paradiso, II, 1-9.


  1. I feel exactly the same. A film of his that is very difficult to describe in words, if at all possible!

    As an aside, if you wish to see some of Kieslowski's Filming Locations, please don't hesitate to drop by The Theatre Of The Third Kind.

    Also, I have there some clips of Irène Jacob singing:
    Irène Jacob & Vincent Delerm At La Cigalle
    A Time For Everything
    Il Ne Faut Pas Briser Un Rêve

    I remain, &c.
    Alexander Dyle

  2. Wooooah there! You just took me by surprise. You're the first person to comment on my Blogger that I don't know in the real world. Welcome!

    Wow, great clips! It's too bad Google Maps doesn't have more street maps in Poland. I visited Krakow last year and was excited to see the familiar view of the Market Square at such a key moment in the film.

    Jacob's voice is much nicer when she's not belting out operatically. I particularly like the bit I heard from Il Ne Faut Pas Briser un Rêve, though I could only hear the clip on Amazon (I don't have Windows Media Player).

    I take it you're a big Kieslowski fan. I'd love to hear your suggestions to get some more experience with his work.

    Thanks for the post!

  3. Krzysztof Kieslowski's films could be said to be alternate views of the same story; the story of the human race. In an interview on the making of the Three Colours Trilogy, Krzysztof Kieslowski said:

    “I'm always shooting the same film”

    In the book Kieslowski On Kieslowski, edited by Danusia Stok, Krzysztof Kieslowski adds:

    “I just keep on going. And if somebody doesn't want to or can't understand that this is a lasting process then obviously he or she will keep on saying that everything I do is different, better or worse, from what I've done before. But for me it isn't better or worse. It's all the same only a step further, and, according to my own private scale of values, these are small steps which are taking me to a goal which I'll never reach anyway. I haven't got enough talent.” (p.194)

    There are so many connections between Kieslowski's films that many are missed when the films are first watched. For western audiences, familiar with narrative-type scripts, I would recommend watching Decalogue 1 without reading the reviews first. In Decalogue 1, Krzysztof, a successful young university professor lives alone with his 11-year-old son Pawel in a Warsaw housing complex. An educated modernist & rational skeptic, he relies entirely on modern science & empirical validation. At the end of one of his lectures he speculates that with more computational resources & powerful algorithms, one day it may be possible to create a computer that can replicate a human, one that can have aesthetic experiences, even a personality.

    As a rational professor, he is keen to show his son how the computer will answer all questions asked of it. Together, the father & son sit at the table & input questions of all kinds into their home computer. One day, his father switches on the computer & asks his son to telephone the Meteorological Institute for the number of recent days of frost & the last 3 days ground temperatures. His father then inputs all the variables required to calculate the weight of the person that can be supported at the local frozen lake. The computer informs them that the ice will be able to support three times Pawel's weight. Pawel kisses his father in appreciation & asks him if he could try out, the next morning, the new ice skates he found in a drawer, even though Christmas is still days away. His father smiles & agrees. The same night, his father goes out prodding with a sharp stick & jumps up & down in the middle of the ice to make doubly sure...

    The next film I would recommend would be Decalogue 6 & then Decalogue 9. Please feel free at any time to leave comments at my journal about the films. I would be most pleased to have them.

    I remain, &c.
    Alexander Dyle