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Film / The Double Life of Veronique

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"This is one of the most beautiful films I've seen... This whole film is a hug, the kind you share with a very good friend when you are in sympathy about something that is very important."

The Double Life of Véronique (French: La double vie de Véronique, Polish: Podwójne życie Weroniki) is a 1991 film by Krzysztof Kieślowski, the director of Blind Chance and the Three Colors Trilogy.

It tells the story of two women called Weronika and Véronique, from Poland and France respectively. Both women look exactly the same, share a lot of personality traits and seem to be aware of each other’s existence. However, they never interact with each other, except for one brief moment from a distance.

Weronika (Irène Jacob) is a young Polish woman, a singer in a choir. She travels to Krakow by train, looking for a job. While there she sees a French tour bus and spots a young woman who is her spitting image. The woman on the bus does not notice her. Weronika auditions and lands the job she wanted, featured singer with a Krakow orchestra—but tragedy strikes.

Cut to a young French woman, Veronique (also Irène Jacob). Veronique finds herself feeling sad one day, for no particular reason. She begins to feel as if someone has gone out of her life, but she doesn't know who it might be. She falls in love with Alexandre, a puppeteer. He sees a picture she took on her recent vacation to Poland, a shot of a woman who looks just like her.

The film provides examples of:

  • Aside Glance: Weronika looks straight at the camera and smiles warmly as she begins her train trip to Kraków.
  • Distant Prologue: Starts with short scenes of Weronika/Véronique in 1968 as little girls (in Poland and France respectively) before jumping forward to 1990 and the main story.
  • Doppelgänger / Identical Stranger: Weronika and Véronique. Of course, they’re both played by the same actress, so...
    Ebert: There is a moment... where if the heroine had only glanced out a bus window a second sooner, she might have glimpsed herself in the city square. How could that be? A moment's rent in the fabric of time? A flash from a parallel universe? Kieslowski would never have dreamed of saying and probably didn't know.
  • Fake Band: Fake composer. The story features recurring references to a Dutch classical composer named Van den Budenmayer, and his music is even performed in a concert. Only he never existed. It's a Mythology Gag as Van den Budenmayer was previously mentioned in both The Decalogue and the Three Colors Trilogy.
  • Fanservice: Weronika topless in bed after sex with her boyfriend. Weronika strolling around the room in her underwear while getting ready for a concert.
  • Fatal Method Acting: In-Universe. Weronika collapses and dies of a heart attack in the middle of a concert, right after she sings her solo.
  • Foreshadowing: Weronika's aunt is making out her will, commenting on how women in their family tend to die suddenly and young. Soon after Weronika has her first chest pains, and soon after that she has a heart attack and dies.
  • Hollywood Heart Attack: Averted. Weronika has a very realistic and disturbing heart attack.
  • Little People Are Surreal: Just for the sake of weirdness, evidently, Weronika's aunt's lawyer is a little person.
  • Mythology Gag: The fictional composer Van den Budenmayer is mentioned for the first time in an episode of The Decalogue, and again in the Blue and Red movies of the Three Colors Trilogy. In this film "his" music is performed.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: Weronika apparently specializes in singing Latin chorales, which generates a somewhat creepy vibe, one which becomes much more ominous and disturbing as she has a heart attack and dies onstage right in the middle of singing a solo.
  • P.O.V. Cam: The camera spins and tumbles to the floor as Weronika has a heart attack and dies onstage in the middle of a performance. This is then followed with a P.O.V. Cam mixed with Hitler Cam as we see a shot from the POV of Weronika's coffin, in the grave at her funeral.
  • Psychic Link: Weronika feels like she is not alone in the world. Veronique is saddened and disturbed when Weronika, whom she has never met, dies hundreds of miles away in Poland. Later there is a symbolic scene where Alexandre shows Veronique that he has made two identical puppets, so he can use one if the other is damaged or broken.
    Veronique: All my life I've felt like I was here and somewhere else at the same time.
  • Recurring Extra:
    • A woman with a large hat shows up multiple times in the background. As this occurs in scenes taking place in different countries, and the film itself is concerned with the idea of doppelgängers, it seems intended by the filmmaker.
    • Weronika sees from her apartment a hunched-over old lady carrying two bags in the street. She calls out offering help but the old lady doesn't seem to hear her. Veronique sees what appears to be the same old lady passing by her father's house—"seems" because we don't see the old lady's face either time.
  • Shout-Out: To the Eye Scream of Un Chien Andalou.
  • Show, Don't Tell: One the film's greatest strengths.
  • Slice of Life: Not much really happens. Two Identical Strangers seem to have a psychic link. One gets a job with a choir, and then dies a shockingly premature death. The other, a music teacher, gets a new boyfriend. That's basically it.
  • Surprisingly Sudden Death: After 30 minutes into the movie, Weronika dies onstage from a heart attack, followed by a first person view from her coffin of being buried; ending her story and beginning Veronique’s.