Oh, Krzysztof Kieslowski. It’s been so long since I’ve seen one of your films, but to now watch your last remaining film on the list, is a bittersweet venture. Of course, I could always check out some of your earlier work, but I’d run the risk of marring this image of perfection that I have in my mind when I think of you as a filmmaker, and I don’t want to do that. I might someday, but not right now. Right now, I’d rather just sit and reflect on your first work post-Decalogue, The Double Life of Veronique, and its stunning sense of mood and melancholy for a life now lost, even one that may be more connected to another than that person might think. With Kieslowski’s Three Colors trilogy, I was mostly stymied by the beautiful work with color; almost too much so to really appreciate the story told. Not so here; the color and cinematography work is still very much here, but the story was just as enthralling as the film was to look at and listen to.
Said story is about the interconnected lives of two women, a Polish woman named Weronika, and a French woman named Veronique, who seem to be much more the same person, despite the fact that each lives their own life in separate countries. When one of them unexpectedly dies, the other begins to have flashes of mood and memories from the now deceased’s life and love, and it begins to affect her own. Instead of flipping between the lives of the two Veronikas, the film instead opts to tell the story of one, and then, when she dies, having that story then affect the new story of the second Veronika, to keep things much less confusing, and also much more poignant and affecting to us as viewers. The transition between the two Veronikas is a little muddled for someone who doesn’t recognize the switch in languages from Polish to French; hence, why I’ve laid it out here. Like all the great artists of the cinema, Kieslowski composes each frame like a painter arranging a canvas. He also experiments with some interesting camera shots and angles; though, some part of me wants to believe that, rather than experimenting, this is just more evidence of Kieslowski’s utter mastery of the camera – so I will. The colors are nothing short of beautiful, and while some scenes may toe the line between good use of color correction and having the film look like it’s been doused in paint (a pet peeve of mine, for any who don’t keep up with this blog regularly), it never steps over it, at least for me personally. Music, and especially the score, plays a very big part in this one; it seems to be ever-present, and does a lot to reflect the style of mood the film wishes to give off at any particular moment. The effect of the music increases once we switch lives to the second Veronika, as the music that was a big part of the first one’s life now has a very unsettling and melancholic, even dour, effect on the second.
There was not a thing about this film that I didn’t like. There’s a wonderful sense of mystery about the whole thing, and the film is never fully explained, though there are multiple hints as to the supernatural and fairy tale level the film’s plot works on. Some may not like such an ambiguous film, but if that alone is going to ruin your experience of watching The Double Life of Veronique, then frankly you are way too picky and ready to drop a film at the first sight of any perceived flaw to be watching any such classics of cinema. No film is perfect, though I could make some damn good arguments about some that I’ve reviewed, but to expect perfection in every aspect is to wake up each day expecting to have absolutely everything go your way; it just won’t happen, especially if you’re expecting it to. To even say that The Double Life of Veronique is just “good enough” is to do it a major disservice; this is artistry at a level few other films and directors can even hope to aspire to. And I didn’t even get into aspects like Irene Jacob’s wonderful acting or the pitch perfect art direction and production design. There’s just so much good to this film that to look and only see one mole on an otherwise stellar form is to be willingly narrow-minded. I’m guilty of this on occasion, sure, but it’s thanks to films like this one that I am reminded of how to really appreciate greatness, in any of its forms.
Arbitrary Rating: 10/10