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.