Last night I watched Krzysztof Kieslowski’s The Double Life of Veronique (1991) for the fourth time, and decided that instead of reviewing it like normal, as I had planned to, I would instead bring on Ashley, my girlfriend who loves the film as much as I do. In fact, she loves it more; it’s her favourite movie of all time, and so I thought her thoughts on it deserve to be added.
So what we did was we recorded a conversation about it between us, and the following is a transcript of that discussion. Turns out we both love it a lot so there’s not really any conflicting opinions, but I still think it’s a refreshing break from a review.
NB: This is much less a review than it is simply us talking about the film. If you haven’t seen it, most of this will make no sense to you.
T: The Double Life of Veronique.
T: Why is it your favourite movie of all time?
A: It’s a lot of things, really. But the biggest one is just its originality on how it handles its subject.
A: Well, it’s about two women who live exactly the same lives, right? Any Hollywood phony could do that, but with Kieslowski it’s different.
T: How ‘different’?
A: Well, I love how he doesn’t intertwine the stories, so that they come together at some clichéd Hollywood ending; he tells the story of Weronika first, then when that finishes, he jumps to Veronique. The storylines are both respectively chronological, rather than cutting between and getting annoying.
T: Intertwining movies annoy you?
A: No, they don’t, but if this movie intertwined the stories of the two women it would be annoying. It’d just be too difficult to keep up.
T: Okay. So what about the direction? How do you think Kieslowski handles things?
A: Overall, I’d say quite well, though I’m not an expert at camera angles or anything.
T: Uh-huh. What, particularly, about it did you think was well done, in terms of direction?
A: The camera moves very fluidly. I especially love how it rotates as Weronika sees Veronique in the bus early on. It seems to turn around and around til you’re dizzy, but it works. It’s definitely the best scene.
T: Okay. What about the writing? What do you think of the screenplay?
A: Well, Kieslowski always has great stories. When you think of his movies, you think of the stories, right?
T: I know I certainly do, among other things.
A: Right! And the way he handles this woman’s paranoia about being in two places at once… he writes it so well.
T: Alright. What about the acting? What did you think of Irene Jacob?
A: She was superb. That scene near the end when she sees Weronika in the photo and starts crying while making love is… such a contrast. It’s almost as if she’s being raped.
T: Wow. I never thought of it like that.
A: Well, think about it. The sex is just so rough in that scene; there’s no love in it, whereas during all Veronique’s other encounters with men, including the flasher, there seems to be at least some… sexuality… just, vibrant sexuality, almost fun, jovial… y’know?
A: And all those scenes are fun for her, but that final sex scene, she’s crying so rapidly and vividly and we know she’s being humped, but there’s no sexual stimulation there. To a casual viewer it would look like rape.
A: But it’s not though, because she wants to make love to him, she has been wanting it for a while and yet when it comes, pardon the pun, it’s under such… unfortunate circumstances.
T: What about the music? What about the score?
A: Well, obviously the opera is fantastic. She has such a wonderful voice, Irene Jacob. And when we see Weronika singing at the recital, it’s so clear and loud and beautiful, that when Veronique goes to quit her singing lessons, even though she’s unknowingly saving her own life, it just hurts so much to see her stop.
T: Alright. Is there anything else you particularly liked about it?
A: Oh, there is a hell of a lot more. For starters, the way the screen is painted in Paris… in movies like Amelie, for example, we see a vibrant Paris that’s dancing with life. In Kieslowski’s movies, it seems to be a lot more desolate. The same goes for the earlier Polish scenes.
T: I agree. I think it’s like he’s acknowledging that the cities are fine places, but he’s not adding anything more to support that. Even in his more comedic stories like Three Colours: White or the third Dekalog episode, for example, the cities are… not darker, but more lonesome. There’s not a huge backdraft of supporting characters, there are just the mains and one or two supports.
A: Right, like Veronique’s father for example. I think he’s a very Kieslowski character.
T: How so?
A: He’s an old man, a wise man, an important man, and there seems to be a lot of those in Kieslowski’s films. Not main characters, but not supporting ones either because they always play an important role.
T: I know what you mean. Like the judge in Three Colours: Red.
A: Yeah, that too, but he was more of a main character. I’m thinking more like that guy in White, who came up to the main guy at the train station and became his friend for like half the movie and helped him get back home.
T: Oh, yeah, that’s right. And, you know what I think?
T: I think that there’s always a tiny character. A small person who might not say anything, but you notice them. Like the homeless guy in the Dekalog episodes, or the old woman trying to put something in a rubbish bin in the Three Colours trilogy.
A: Yeah? You reckon they represent something?
T: Yes I do, but I’ve never been quite sure what that was, only that I knew they were there for a reason. Take the old lady, or example; she originally appeared in this movie, The Double Life of Veronique. She was heaving along some bags and Weronika offered to go down and help her but she didn’t reply.
A: You think that was the same woman?
T: Perhaps, but you know what I think was really strange, and probably a happy accident?
T: She’s heaving some bags in Veronique, and we might be able to guess she’s carrying something important, right?
T: Well, in the Three Colours trilogy, when we see her, no one goes to help her dispose of her things until in the third movie, Red, and the person who helps her in the end is none other than Irene Jacob’s character Valentine.
T: It’s almost as if, after the three year gap between Veronique and Red, that Weronika has finally found the old woman and helped her. It’s like a completely accidental bridge between the two movies.
A: I get what you mean, but Tyler?
A: You think too much. I reckon that was just a coincidence.
T: Well, I know it was, but I just felt I should share it. I thought you’d be more excited.
A: I’d be excited if your conclusion was actually plausible.
T: I know, okay. It was just a thought!
T: Okay, let’s carry on. What would you rate the movie out of ten, as if we don’t already know?
A: Ten. And you?
T: Ten as well. That wasn’t surprising, we both love it.
A: I thought you would love it more, being such a Kieslowski freak.
T: I do love it a lot, and it’s definitely gonna move up on my Top 100, but I still maintain it’s nowhere near as good as Red.
A: Jesus, don’t start rambling about that again.
T: [laughs] So it’s both ten, then.
T: For Veronique.
A: Oh. Yes. Hell yeah.
Well, that’s our little discussion. What did you think? Was it five minutes of your life you desperately want back, or was there some validity in what we said? Let me know in the comments below!