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Written by: Krzysztof Piesiewicz and Krzysztof Kieslowski

Directed by: Krzysztof Kieslowski

Starring: Irene Jacob, Bruce Schwartz

Weronika (Irene Jacob), a young  and superbly talented Polish choral singer is visiting her aunt (and avoiding her boyfriend) in Warsaw where she sees her doppelganger climb onto a bus in the middle of a rioting crowd. Not long after, Weronika suffers a stroke on stage during a concert. At the same moment, in France, Veronique (Irene Jacob) suffers more than la petite mort as she turns away from her lover and is struck with the sense that she is suddenly and absolutely alone in the world. Each woman moves through her life feeling an unnamed connection to the other that simmers in the background of their every move. This is Krzysztof Kieslowski’s The Double Life of Veronique, a film that I have seen many times in just a few years and which remains a most rewarding bit of cinema.

While the film carries a vague political subtext, it is the connection between these women and Kieslowski’s sensuous and complex direction that endlessly fascinates. What makes this film incredible is how non-specific Kieslowski is; things happen but they are left to speak for themselves, characters express odd sensations or emotions but no direct explanation is offered, leitmotifs drift in and out but are never anchored to anything. Kieslowski is clearly not interested in offering any answers, or even in asking any specific questions, he is just pondering a scenario. There are two women, worlds apart, who are identical save for a hairstyle, and who are both haunted by (though unaware of) the other’s presence. The dual performance from Irene Jacob is fantastic as she fills each character with distinct physical and emotional subtleties and does so with incredible grace. She is a stunning screen presence, as I have said before, who is able to express so much yearning and passion and boredom and love and curiosity with the slightest gesture.

 Kieslowski’s direction offers one of the most passionate visual experiences cinema has to offer. It is tempting to call his view obsessive, but that’s not quite right. It is as though Kieslowski is in love with Weronika and Veronique, and wishes to capture their every tiny gesture. Warmly coloured closeups and observant pauses give deep emotional texture to the lives of these women. Most of the scenes in this film are so short and self-contained that they are nearly vignettes, yet Kieslowski’s keen storytelling gives depth to the characters and emotional resonance in every move they make. Veronique is so rich with spiritual weight and ethereal presence that this is clearly a film about exploring what is at play in our lives that we cannot ever truly know. Mirrors, reflections and duplicates of all sorts occur throughout and they reinforce not just the nature of the connection between the two women but also they evoke the notion that we are viewing the universe “through a glass, darkly.” Scenes involving a marionette puppeteer (Wikipedia tells me they are know as “manipulators” eh??) and his puppets that look exactly like Veronique make the unmistakable suggestion that there very well may be  Movers beyond the vacuum of human awareness. Kieslowski spent his career considering the human condition through religious doctrine but in The Double Life of Veronique he is offering no guidance or answers, he is flirting with a curiosity for the spiritual unknown.