Written by: John White on March 9th, 2006
Theatrical Release Date: France/Poland, 1991
Director: Krzyzstof Kieslowski
Cast: Irène Jacob, Gilles Gaston-Dreyfus, Halina Gryglaszewska, Kalina Jedrusik, Aleksander Bardini, Wladyslaw Kowalski
DVD released: 22nd February 2006
Approximate running time: 98 mins
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: Not Rated
Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0/5.0
DVD Release: MK2
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL
Retail Price: EUR 25,00
Weronika is a young woman with a remarkable singing voice who is impulsive and in love in Kracow. When her voice gets recognised she neglects her lover and literally sings her heart out, dying whilst performing. At the same time, Veronique, a music teacher in Paris decides to forsake her singing for her health. Veronique watches a puppet show about a ballerina who becomes injured and turns into a butterfly with the schoolchildren. She is transfixed by the puppeteer but does not know him. She starts to receive phone calls and packages which lead her to believe the puppeteer is a writer and in love with her as she is with him. She follows the clues and meets him but he hides his feelings and she runs from him. He tracks her down and they find a picture in her things of Weronika, Veronique’s double.
Krzysztof Kieslowski started making films in Poland as a documentarist only moving to feature films in the mid seventies. With his writing partner, Krzysztof Piesiewicz, Kieslowski produced his best work from 1985’s No End through to Three Colours: Red in 1995. These films mixed a potent spirituality with interdependent stories and characters and appealed to the broad European arthouse scene and not just the mere Polish audience who Kieslowski believed his films were for.
Veronique is a film about things that make little sense – deja vu, premonition, interconnectedness, instinct, or fate. Both Veronique and the short lived Weronika do what they feel like and follow their instincts – Veronique volunteers to lie for a friend in her divorce case on a whim and Weronika sings because she can’t stop herself. Weronika begins the film in love and Veronique ends it in love. Veronique is led to her lover by clues, signs, sounds and curiosity.
As a simple plot therefore Veronique is not a linear film or a filmed drama. It is an attempt to catch these wordless spiritual values, to marvel at existence and, perhaps, to compare ourselves to the puppets of Veronique’s lover. The film is shot with beautiful coloured lighting to enlighten each scene and with an abundance of connotative and denotive images to reinforce the spiritual symmetry at the films core. When Veronique realises that her feeling of never being alone was real she cries and her lover makes her a puppet of herself so she’ll never be alone and another copy “as they break so easily”.
Brilliant, wilfully difficult, and unexplained, the Double Life of Veronique is the towering achievement of the late Kieslowski.
A DVD of this film has been a long time coming and the MK2 2 disc package brings with it impossible expectations of doing the film justice. This package though is pretty impressive with a disc of extras including three short features from Kieslowski, an interview with Irene Jacob and a 52 minute piece of Kieslowski making this film. This documentary includes interviews with Kieslowski talking about why he gave up making documentaries because he wanted to concentrate on the personal and the emotional and how this is only possible through the “fake”. The second disc also contains a profile on Kieslowski’s career. All of these carry English subtitles and have the option for English menus.
The main feature has been restored and the print does look tremendous throughout with excellent colour balance and good sharpness. This is a very dark film and the darker scenes do betray a bit of grain although this is far from a huge problem. The soundtracks in both 5.0 and 2.0 are excellent with no distortion or hiss of any kind.
This package comes with a strip of celluloid from the film as part of the gatefold pack. It looks that the R2 UK disc out in April will have the same extras but I will be surprised if it as well put together as this disc is. This looks like a safe purchase for fans of Kieslowski or just those who like their films moving and intelligent.