Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Double Life of Véronique (Krzysztof Kieslowski)

Irene Jacob as Weronika and Véronique.

Fresh from a blockbuster overload after watching “The Dark Knight Rises” a couple of times (and “The Amazing Spider-Man” before that), it’s a bit off for me to immediately jump back to my more esoteric inclinations. Now, here’s Krzysztof Kieslowski’s enigmatic “The Double Life of Veronique”, a film that, like the movements of the marionettes shown in the film, unveils its story with a certain hypnotic vibe. Honestly, I’m not quite sure if what I have seen is really something deeply meditative or merely a pretentious piece, but it is nonetheless an artful ride. 
Just like a typical Kieslowski film, “The Double Life of Veronique” appears as if little to nothing is going to happen and as if the main characters’ feelings are operating within the confines of an emotional plane alien to ordinary viewers like us. But with the Kieslowki’s usual sleight-of-hand at play here, and with that I mean his penchant for integrating deeply affecting concepts about love and identity within the visual limitations of a subtle drama film, “The Double Life of Veronique” is quite successful in a handful of levels. 
First, it is a well-crafted cinematic amalgamation of music and imagery (thanks to Kieslowski’s frequent collaborators Zbigniew Preisner and Slawomir Idziak). Second, it is a film particularly memorable because of Irene Jacob’s natural, iridescent charm and quietly devastating performance. And third, well, this is where the more ambiguous things come in. As an abstract film both in emotions and meaning, it is meritorious in just letting its own visual and auditory mood take over the reins of telling the film’s story (or the reins of justifying the lack thereof). But unlike your usually plotless art film, “The Double Life of Veronique” has an involving narrative working to its own advantage. 
Well, the story is quite simplistic. It concerns two women who look very much alike: Weronika, who lives in Poland, and Veronique, who lives in Paris. Both characters are played by Irene Jacob. From the hair to their dressing preference, they are the spitting images of one another. Hell, they’re not even related. 
Not aware of each other’s existence, the film’s metaphysical powers are slowly creating a bridge; slowly, we are seeing the connection between them. But Kieslowski, arguably at his subtlest, won’t let his film be tarnished by some clichéd chance encounters or life-affirming vis a vis between the two. Instead, Kieslowski has spatially set both characters apart from each other to first let their independent stories be told. Weronika, a considerably free-spirited young woman, is just inches away from attaining success in the world of opera singing. Veronique, on the other hand, is a music teacher in search of a meaningful love. From these simple stories of existence, the film is quite surprising in how it slowly widens its conceptual plane as it progresses. From simply being a drama film about two look-alikes, “The Double Life of Veronique” slowly turns into a meditation about distant duality and the spiritual and emotional connection between two people created in the same physical mould.
So, maybe this is where God enters this little humanist circus. Does Kieslowski perceive God as a playful master creator? An omniscient being that brings dead ringers into existence, intentionally integrates them into the stream of life and then watch the sparks fly? Is there some sort of energy that these two share that when one of them dies, the other gets weaker and emptier inside? Kieslowski’s vision for this picture is just too far-reaching and, at the same time, so wonderfully ambiguous that its idea just won’t end where this film already has. Take “Another Earth” as an ideal example. I believe that the said film is “The Double Life of Veronique” all over again. 
Adding a sci-fi element by incorporating a ‘mirror’ earth that is said to be inhabited by parallel versions of ourselves, “Another Earth” just took this film’s whole concept and made it a notch more complicated but a notch less fascinating. But do not get me wrong, I think that “Another Earth”, as a film, has its own merits. But at the end of the day, I very much prefer Kieslowski’s masterly stroke of using nothing as his ultimate explanation to everything. Though this might be considered as a pretentious cop-out on his part, leaving everything unanswered has made the film even more compelling and reflective than it should have been. Although we all have different takes on it, we do not hold the key to what it’s really all about. Perhaps life itself does, and we just aren’t looking closely.


1 comment:

  1. Ivan, san ka nakakanuod ng ganyang films? Di ko talaga naririnig ibang films na nirereview mo?


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