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The Double Life of Veronique (The Criterion Collection)

4.6 out of 5 stars 104 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Krzysztof Kieslowski’s 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 Idziak’s shimmering cinematography and Zbigniew Preisner’s haunting, operatic score, Kieslowski creates one of cinema’s most purely metaphysical works: The Double Life of Véronique is an unforgettable symphony of feeling.

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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


Special Features

  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer
  • Commentary by film scholar Annette Insdorf
  • Three short documentary films by Kieslowski: "Factory" (1970), "Hospital" (1976), and "Railway Station" (1980)
  • Bonus short film "The Musicians" (1958) by Kieslowski's teacher, Kazimierz Karabasz
  • The alternate U.S. ending
  • 1991 documentary "Kieslowski - Dialogue" featuring a candid interview with Kieslowski and rare behind-the-scenes footage from the set of The Double Life of Véronique
  • 2005 documentary "1966 - 1988:  Kieslowski, Polish Filmmaker"
  • New video interviews with actress Irène Jacob, cinematographer Slawomir Idziak, and composer Zbigniew Preisner
  • New and improved English subtitle translation
  • Booklet with essays by Jonathan Romney, Slavoj Zizek, and Peter Cowie, and an excerpt from "Kieslowski on Kieslowski"

Product Details

  • Actors: Irène Jacob, Wladyslaw Kowalski, Halina Gryglaszewska, Kalina Jedrusik, Aleksander Bardini
  • Directors: Krzysztof Kieslowski
  • Writers: Krzysztof Kieslowski, Krzysztof Piesiewicz
  • Producers: Bernard-P. Guiremand, Leonardo De La Fuente, Ryszard Chutkowski
  • Format: Color, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: Polish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
    R
    Restricted
  • Studio: Criterion
  • DVD Release Date: November 21, 2006
  • Run Time: 98 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (104 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000I2J75O
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #119,075 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Double Life of Veronique (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 28, 2004
Verified Purchase
One of Krzysztof Kieslowski's finest films is "The Double Life of Veronique" ("La Double vie de Véronique"). It's not just a philosophical, arty film, but a subtle and unique tale full of Kieslowski's directorial magic, and gives Irène Jacob a chance to shine in her most challenging role.
There are two women, the Polish Weronika and the French Veronique (both played by Irène Jacob). They have never met, never spoken, and do not know that the other exists. They share the same losses and the same health. Weronika is a singer, and Veronique is taking singing lessons. But their lives and souls are bound together, and their personalities are yin-yang opposites, one practical and one a stargazer.
What is more, each has the strange feeling that she is, somehow, not alone in the world. One night, Weronika dies onstage while singing. Suddenly in France, Veronique is stricken with a strange feeling, and stops taking her lessons. Weronika has died, but she still lives. Soon she begins to explore, searching for the truth about her double life, and a strange puppeteer who somehow is a link between both girls.
"Double Life of Veronique" is one of those rare films that just begs to be analyzed. Is it about being puppets in some enormous scheme of things? About fate? Sacrifice? Love? One woman's soul in two bodies? Political symbolism? Or is it simply about some mysterious dimension of the spiritual? The symbols and metaphors can be unwound any which way, and in the end they all work. Even the ending is ambiguous -- is it happy, or sad?
Krzysztof Kieslowski's direction is impeccable. His use of light and shadow, and the atmospheric music, make "Double Life" practically a work of art.
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The Double Life of Veronique is an absolutely stunning film. The director, whose work includes Decalogue and the superb Three Colors Trilogy (Blue, White, and Red), displays a confident tone in his deliberate pacing and the subtle way in which he establishes the mood of this picture. In Irene Jacob (also the star of Red), he finds the perfect leading lady, who has an innocent yet mysterious and beautiful aura which works so well with the tone of this film.
There isn't really a plotline in this movie, but in general, it concerns the lives of two women (Veronique and Veronikka, both played by Irene Jacob) born on the same day but in different countries. Though they lead separate lives, there are parallels drawn in their existence, and their paths cross ever so briefly as the story of one woman dissolves into the story of the second. There is a distinct dreamlike quality to this film, and certainly, mood rather than narrative is the dominant driving force to the film.
Most Americans will consider this film to be a typical European "art house" film. If that is not your cup of tea, then you probably will not like this film, for it is decidedly a non-Hollywood production. Don't even bother trying to compare this film with the recent and remarkably inferior Demi Moore Hollywood film about two similar women living on separate continents; the films are nothing alike. "La double vie de veronique" is an excellent film for those who admire director Kieslowski's films or who have the patience to try something different and enlightening.
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I imagine this film is subtly autobiographical because the director is Polish and yet his films are all made in French. So the two Veroniques could quite possibly be the twin creative personas or muses of Kieslowski himself. The one Veronique is Polish and dies singing, the other lives on in France but with a sense of having missed the one important connection in her life. So the film feels like an allegory of lives or destinies unfulfilled and the most obvious destiny that was cut short was Poland's but this film does not make speeches, it whispers.
As an artist living and creating in exile Kieslowski must himself have felt divided into two parts. Modern life feeling impersonal is a classic theme of the twentieth century yet the way Kieslowski tells it it does not feel at all cliched, rather he breathes new life and new understanding into what it means to live in the modern world. His allegory presents a very high vision of humanity which makes us all feel responsible and connected to each other in some way. But the appeal of the film is that it says everything in such an intimate way. Veronique is a film which becomes richer with each viewing. Kieslowski's films tap into a very new kind of place that has no language barriers. His films return to a purity that is almost silent. A universality is present in his art that is quite breathtaking.
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Irene Jacob stars in the dual role of Veronika, a Polish singer with a heart condition, and Veronique, a French puppeteer, who has some inexplicable connection this Polish version of herself. It is an interesting exploration of Veronique's life after Veronika dies, and of how Veronique feels a profound sense of loss at the death of her twin. This film was directed by Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski just before he made his Bleu, Blanc, Rouge trilogy. While this film is a bit oblique and hard to follow at times, it is worthwhile for its dark and fascinating subject matter and the sensual treatment of the scenery and characters. Also notable is the gorgeous soundtrack by frequent Kieslowski collaborator Zbigniew Preisner.
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