Krzysztof Kieslowskis international breakthrough remains one of his most beloved films, a ravishing, mysterious rumination on identity, love, and human intuition. Irène Jacob is incandescent as both Weronika, a Polish choir soprano, and her double, Véronique, a French music teacher. Though unknown to each other, the two women share an enigmatic, purely emotional bond, which Kieslowski details in gorgeous reflections, colors, and movements. Aided by Slawomir Idziaks shimmering cinematography and Zbigniew Preisners haunting, operatic score, Kieslowski creates one of cinemas most purely metaphysical works: The Double Life of Véronique is an unforgettable symphony of feeling.
Filled with reflective surfaces and vivid colors, The Double Life of Véronique
marks one of Krzysztof Kieslowski's most haunting films. Just as the director divided his time between his adopted France and his native Poland, the story involves two unrelated women who look exactly alike (both played by Red
's Irène Jacob, who won the best actress award at Cannes).
The Polish Weronika, a classical singer with a heart condition, collapses during a performance, after which Kieslowski turns his gaze to the French Véronique, a music teacher who shares the same ailment (much like Kieslowski, who died after cardiac surgery in 1996). Véronique's life follows a similar track, while her affection for Alexandre (Philippe Volter), a puppeteer, suggests the working relationship between the actress and the filmmaker. It's Alexandre, after all, who draws Véronique's attention to the existence of her double (through a photograph she took on a trip to Krakow). In that sense, Kieslowski plays with art as much as identity. Instead of explaining the connection between the characters, he lets the mystery serve as its own reward.
In her commentary, Annette Insdorf (Double Lives, Second Chances: The Cinema of Krzysztof Kieslowski) outlines the reasons she finds the film so metaphysically rich, from the insights into Kieslowski's background to Sawomir Idziak's inventive cinematography. Other extras include interviews with Jacob, Idziak, and composer Zbigniew Preisner; a featurette; a profile of the director; the alternate ending (which feels extraneous); three shorts (the best is 1980's "Railway Station," in which Kieslowski presents a throng of commuters from the perspective of a security camera operator); and an additional short ("The Musicians") about a band of factory workers by his instructor Kazimierz Karabasz. Kieslowski admired this heartfelt portrait for the way it expressed "the human need to create." --Kathleen C. Fennessy