The Double Life of Véronique (1991) (R)

Krzysztof Kieślowski's first real splash of notoriety in American pop culture was with "The Double Life of Véronique". Before this he had "The Decalogue" but with his science-fiction-meets-realistic-romance-deja-vu movie,  he was treated with more respect and took home some awards at the Cannes Film Festival. The film itself was nominated for a Golden Globe and then forgotten unless you were a fan  of Kieślowski's body of work. "The Double Life of Véronique" also marks the beginning of the end of the director's career, which was cut short right after his trilogy of colors, his most famous works.
"The Double Life of Véronique" begins in the stars and ends in the mind. The opening shots are confusing and never explained, something that Kieślowski doesn't shy away from through out the entire length of his movie.
The only character here of importance is Véronique (Irène Jacob, later seen in "Three Colors: Red") or Weronika depending on where she is living. The film makes pains to state that these two women are not the same person living in some alternate universe, though I think that would be the best explanation to the whole problem here.
Weronika lives in Poland and Véronique is French. The two have a chance meeting on the streets in Poland when Véronique accidentally snaps a picture of Weronika. The Polish half of the story is more ethereal, more haunting, and certainly more entertaining.
When we switch over to France, demonstrating Jacob's multilingual abilities, the film takes a real dive and pedals its feet, struggling to know what to do with itself.
It's clear that there is some connection between the two women, but what that is, we don't really know. The majority of the film is focused on Véronique and her struggles with everyday life/romance. As cheesy as it sounds, the film (which could have been quite entertaining and masterful) is more interested in the lives of its characters than the plot device it so frustratingly and inexplicably throws at the viewer. Sure, the characters are more important than the plot; but they are never so important and so empathetic that I wanted to forget about the complexities that kept unwinding in front of my eyes.
If you want to see this done right, watch "Upstream Color".
Still there's a lot to say for how beautifully moody "The Double Life of Véronique" is. The cinematography can be spellbinding and is one of the larger reasons that the sins of the movie's forgetfulness can be forgiven.
I was ready to like the movie, so ready; and I was so disappointed.
"The Double Life of Véronique" does not go anywhere, and it doesn't even try to.
As the idea of the two women living the same but different lives becomes more evident to the viewer, we get a lot of imagery with glass. We see reflections, we look through glass, glass balls invert images, etc. etc. Okay, that's what?
Perhaps Kieślowski didn't want to explain everything to his viewer and if this is the case, then he deserves all the more to be hated. His trilogy managed to tip-toe the line between pretentious and moving; but here, we see it collapse and crumble.
Kieślowski is notorious for being an intelligent director, maybe too intelligent. His "Three Colors" trilogy was based off the colors and ideas associated with the French flag and "The Decalogue" was based off of the Ten Commandments. So what does "The Double Life of Véronique" mean? Frankly, with Kieślowski's other work, the intelligent ramblings were secondary to the watchability of the movie. Here, I think it is vice versa; but I just don't care to do the work involved. It's possible that the key to the puzzle is knowing what to look at the movie through; but after seeing double, you may not wish to go there.
"The Double Life of Véronique" is a visually stunning piece and filled to the brim with glorious music and pretentious scenes. I don't know what it is about Irène Jacob that makes her so irksome, but I think that most of the blame falls on her director. For a movie that could have been genuinely interesting, instead I view "The Double Life of Véronique" as one of the best evidences for why American audiences have a hatred for foreign cinema, it feels aloof and snooty.
Pish posh on that.

Score: ★★½

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