The Double Life Of Veronique is a shimmering puzzle of cinema. Irène Jacob – who turns in two captivating performances assisted by the fact that she’s utterly, irresistibly beautiful – plays Veronique/Weronika. The same age, identical in looks, both with extraordinary musical talent: the film offers no supernatural explanation for these doppelgangers. They simply happen to be, one in Poland and one in France.
The first pursues her singing career to destruction, while the second chooses to become a primary school teacher only to find herself pursued by Philippe Volter’s unsettling puppeteer, who seems to know more about her than she does.
In the naturalist worlds of Eastern and Western Europe constructed here, the twins have even more disruptive charge than they would in a heightened gothic. As Veronique discovers more about her counterpart, we remain as deliriously baffled and discomfited as she does. All the directorial effort is invested in the details. Subtle tricks of cinematography, such as a play of refraction through a train window that seems to tear apart and reassemble Weronika’s world, reveal all that we’re going to find out about this strange pair of girls.
It’s the kind of film that could be unbalanced by unsympathetic extras trying to tell you more than you needed to know. Luckily, Kieslowski isn’t really a tell-all kind of director: the additional material all respects the delicate doubts of the main feature, offering insights into the filmmaking but never trying to explain. Brilliantly, the short films here are not leftovers from the movie, but works by Kieslowski’s teacher Kazimierz Karabasz – an imaginative way of giving the depth that Blu-ray demands.
The picture is marginally fuzzy, with a soft analogue edge that is less of a flaw, more a manifestation of Veronique’s dreamy strangeness. But the sound is superb, the audio making the moments of musical performance almost as immediate as being there with Veronique/Weronika – if you can tell which of the girls is singing to you.
A haunted, delicate and beautiful film, with Irène Jacob outstanding in a lead performance of exquisite vivacity and vulnerability.