From the moment he started working outside of Poland, Krzysztof Kieslowski came to be widely regarded as one of the most important and original European film makers of his day. Even if his work from the very early days were cherished and admired in his native Poland, it took the rest of Europe more than twenty years to fully discover and acknowledge his genius. For an insightful article on Krzysztof Kieslowski, check out this obituary that appeared in The Guardian after his untimely death.
His mesmerising drama “La Double Vie de Véronique” [Eng. Title: The Double Life of Veronique] form part of his later works, but it was my introduction to Kieslowski when it was screened on TV. Watching it more recently on Blu-ray, I am surprised at how superficial my TV viewing was. The film is actually a philosophical work – deeply personal, it is an exploration of among other things, love, loss, and fate. Kieslowski loves humans, or more accurately the superior qualities in human nature, like their ability to love, feel empathy, and so on. He uses two contrasting cultures – Polish and French, to underscore the universal appeal that these higher feelings hold among us.
On the way to her first concert performance, Weronika – a promising young singer in Poland, notices a spitting image of her in a tourist bus arriving from France. She tries to garner her attention, but the woman is busy taking pictures of a political demonstration taking place at the square. We learn during the course of the film that Véronique, the French woman, and Weronika – apart from their physical resemblance, also share the same profession, and a similar health ailment, one that’ll lead to Weronika’s sudden death while on stage. Even without having any knowledge of the identical Polish woman’s existence, nor her death, Véronique will begin to mourn. She quits her job and takes up teaching music to schoolchildren. Despite having met the love of her life, something from within keeps her in a perpetual state of melancholy. It is her boyfriend who first identifies Weronika from one of Véronique’s travel photos. Perhaps now, Véronique might grow curious about Weronika, and learn the reason for her mourning…
The film is visually stunning – almost every frame is picture-perfect – be it the colours, composition, or lighting. The soundtrack is haunting, aided by flawless engineering and editing. And with the camera transfixed for most part on a divine Irène Jacob who plays both Weronika and Véronique, it’s possible that no director could’ve achieved any more than what we get to see on screen. She glows! She looks like the most beautiful creature and soul to have walked the earth. Everybody in the film loves her. Everybody watching it will love her. The Blu-ray disc comes with loaded extras including interviews and an interesting documentary. What more can I say – Highly Recommended Viewing..!
Amazon Blu-ray Link
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The Nudity: Irene Jacob