Thursday, November 26, 2020

The Double Life of Veronique

The question of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s The Double Life of Veronique (1991) is whether the movie is about one character or two. It starts in Krakow and ends in Paris. A marionette maker produces two identical dolls which seem to mirror the disjunction or two separate selves. At the beginning of the movie Weronika (Irene Jacob) is a pianist whose hand has been injured when the father of one of her friends slams a door on it. However, she's gifted with a magically beautiful voice which earns her a leading role in a choral and operatic work despite the fact that she possesses little more than a high school degree in music. During one of the performances she appears to die, a premature death like that of her mother. The flatline EKG is a symbol in the movie. One of the most bracing scenes is the funeral in which the viewer sees the burial from the lead character’s point of view as the dirt is thrown into her grave. Does one character die so the other may live? Veronique (again Irene Jacob) has a totally separate existence as a music teacher in France. However, from the start there's the sense that Weronika/Veronique is a single entity seeking to reunite the missing parts of herself. Is she simply suffering from mulitple personality disorder? That's too simple. Kieslowski's character resists being pathologized. She’s a voyeur who literally witnesses her disembodied self. Her personality is reconstituted through repeating leitmotifs. She wears red lipstick and has red hair. She sleeps on red sheets. “All my life I felt I was here and somewhere else at the same time,” she explains. In this sense she's like a quantum particle. On a psychological level she also represents the geopolitical concept of irredentism, the tendency of formerly Balkanized countries to reconstitute themselves. She tells her father (Claude Duneton) that she’s in love, but she doesn’t know with who. One of her lovers is writing a book about a stranger who's mysteriously brought to the man she will love. Like many of the images which are rotated from top to bottom, biography is turned upside down. Kieslowski is always putting the cart before the horse and doubting causality in order to redefine the nature of personality itself.

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