Friday, October 04, 2013

The Double Life of Veronique (1991)

It was a warm summer night and we decided to go to the movies. Open air cinema, in fact. It was summer, we were two, kind of together, kind of happy, things were more or less allright. It was not back then, not when the film was released, it was only this summer. This very summer, the summer hardly a month away. We watched Veronique and her double life, we said, oh, that was a strange film and that was all. We didn't give it a lot of thought afterwards. It was a strange film and that was all, but we were happy we had watched it because we always wanted to do so.

The Double Life of Veronique (1991) is a film where two girls look alike. One lives in Paris, the other in Warsaw and they feel each other's presence in a way. They never get acquainted, but they do see each other without actually realising it, not really. Two very different girls, but in a way the same one. Torn from a need to know, a need to feel, a godforsaken curiosity that makes life hard, but exciting. 

Love is another strange concept in the film. Love is a funny game. Nobody really loves, they are just obsessed. Obsession is powerful. Obsession doesn't last, and that's the sad thing about it. Obsessions come and go and when you're the one obsessed with something you cannot have that's a good thing, when you're the object of obsession of a madman then it's a good thing he gets over you, when you're the object of obsession of your object of obsession and you know that this is gonna last a little bit, maybe a bit more, but will come to an end soon, then, oh, well, just get over it first. Cause, you know, it hurts a bit when you're dumped amidst obsessive feelings. You are even capable of committing crimes against humanity, you are.

I know all the above are more or less nonsensical, but we were kinda happy then. That summer night. In that other warm country. But there were shadows lingering behind us. We knew it. We knew them. Shadows we didn't want to shed light on. And so it was. A very fragile kind of happiness that I disliked at the time, but I now miss nevertheless. But then again, it was liberating to lose it, this unstable happiness no more.


Anonymous said...

Veronique doesn't live in Paris - she lives in Clermont Ferrand, visits her mother's grave at the cemetery of Chambon-sur-Lac in Auvergne and one day travels to Paris to follow clues sent by a puppeteer who visits her school where she teaches music.

Weronika doesn't live in Warsaw - she lives in Krakow, travels to Szczawnica Zdroj to sing in a concert, returns via Grybow on a train where she plays with a plastic ball and dies whilst singing on stage at the Filharmonia, Krakow.

There's a room number 287 at the Holiday Inn, Krakow where Antek stays and a room number 287 at the L'Horset Pavillon Hotel, 36 Rue De L'Echiquier, Paris where Veronique stays and where the puppeteer is waiting for her in the lobby.

Veronique's father make mention of a painting of Chagall of a church, which happens to be the same one seen at Chambon-sur-Lac where Veronique's mother is interred.

The painting of the church seen above Weronika's bed in Krakow painted by her father is the same one seen through the glass distortion of the window of the train as it leaves Grybow.

There are hundreds of small details like this in this film concerning doubles, glass, reflections, mirrors, light, which reveal themselves progressively on each subsequent viewing of the film.

Krzysztof Kieslowski said the film was about the presentiments, intuitions, emotions, irrational feelings felt by a person. Things that cannot be explained by Mr Scientist and his super-power pocket telescope or the calculator on his iPad. Things that don't make that sense at first hand nor after later reflections about possible meanings.

For those sensitive to such details, the film becomes a haunting for the rest of their lives regarding its linked connections with fate, coincidence, chance, even perhaps silent and divine watching, none of which may be to do with the concept of love as we may conceive of it or experience during our brief lives.

Veronique says to her father that she is in love. How much of that feeling is to do with a puppeteer she encounters, Kieslowski does not give away. But it appears that she is connected strongly to something which is affecting her, as it would any man or woman.

Veronique is not simply in love with the puppeteer she encounters or is in love with love as there is too much seen earlier in the film about Weronika and her other-worldly, irrational, floaty way of living compared to Veronique with her practical, rational, modern and down-to-earth way of living.

Some have suggested that Weronika is Veronique's conscience that may have been awakened. We don't know. Kieslowski never provides answers in his films. He leaves that to the viewer's discretion.

Watch this film again in a few years time and you may uncover a new layer that you were completely blind to, the first time. For many, conclusions drawn from an initial viewing of the film invariably become retractions on later viewings or maybe not, depending on whether anything has really changed in one's life regarding how they view themselves or others.

All the physically seen things mentioned earlier are linked to a limited, mindful, conscious comprehension of the film. As it happens, the film may have less to do with the 'visually seen' part, the doubles, mirrors, or even 'love' as we comprehend it but much more to do with the feeling of 'loneliness' felt by many humans on this planet in their private moments alone.

Only a miracle may change this situation for the better and it appears it may be well outside man's remit to permanently and beneficially change the present state of affairs as history bears witness. One could say, we haven't got a clue what we're doing or how we behave towards each other. Or is that a conscious choice?


estelle said...

I am very honoured indeed for you lengthy comment/critique of the film. I wrote this piece in a dream-state myself, thus the erroneous loci. I did not make much of it, as you may have got, because I did not want to. Sometimes the ethereal part of myself leaves the room. I connected the film to events of my personal life; after all, one can do whatever he wants with any given material, right? Thank you for your own valuable insight.