Tuesday, October 21, 2014
CANON OF FILM: "THE DOUBLE LIFE OF VERONIQUE"
Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski
Screenplay: Krzysztof Kieslowski & Krzysztof Piesiewicz
One of my favorite directors to analyze is Krzysztof Kieslowski. His name in America doesn't always get mentioned among the Bergman, Fellini, Tarkovsky, or other great literary poets of film, but he is one of the most natural artistic filmmakers ever. His works are usually character-driven, and often deal with much simpler stories, at least character-wise, but his films are never boring, and in fact, within these simple tales lies very complex ideas on how luck, chance, fate, coincidence, and destiny seem to affect our lives. His most famous works include “The Decalogue,” a 10-part series of 1 hour films originally made for Polish television that found it’s way to theaters where each section deals with the 10 Commandments, in quite unusual ways. (It’s often unclear just what Commandments match with each film.) And his most famous works, the Three Colors trilogy, “Blue,” “White,” and “Red.” The titles represent the colors on the French Flag which represent liberty, equality, and fraternity respectively, and shows us how liberty can be found inward for a woman after her husband and son are killed, and equality in a man returning to Poland post-communist reign and becoming an entrepreneur, and “Red,” his last film, gave him his only Oscar nomination, involves a woman who runs over a judge’s dog, nurse’s him back to health, to find the judge as someone who spends his days listening on the radio to the phone calls of others, as his radio has crossed signals. I've written Canon of Film entries for each of the Three Colors Trilogy, and eventually I'll post one on "The Decalogue", but both of those are not only for the advance class, they're relatively ungainly to go through, especially if you don't have a prior base of Kieslowski to use as a guide. People should be introduced to him though so I usually recommend people get their first taste of Kieslowski by watching “The Double Life of Veronique,” but don't get that confused with it being a weaker film of his, it's not; it's just as amazing a film he’s ever done.
Weronika (Irene Jacob), is a Polish choir singer in Krakow, who was taught to look at the world upside down and has always had a nagging feeling that she isn’t alone in the world; she can’t explain it though. She's visiting Krakow getting discovered and preparing for a major performance, but on a day out, she thinks she sees something, or maybe she didn’t see it, or maybe she doesn’t know what she saw, but she sees somebody who looks just like her going onto a bus and snapping photographs. We don’t know if the other girl saw her, or for that matter what might have happened if they met each other. There's been a lot of use of dobblegangers in film recently, and there's a rich history of them being used all through literature, but the way they're approach here, is unluck any other. Eventually, we meet the other girl, a French music teacher named Veronique, who was taught to look at the world real close, and who, like her counterpart, has lived life with the same feeling that she isn’t alone in the world. There lives don’t cross sort-of-speak, but are parallel, even if they aren’t aware of it. This movie isn’t about any kind of science or fantasy or the how of it, but about how spirit and souls can seem inherently connected, the metaphysics perhaps. Movements, like placing a ring to your eyes, to put down eyebrow hair, or the twist of a string around a finger. When I was young, whenever I’d hear someone yell my name, when nobody did, I was told it was a guardian angel warning me. This movie feels like that, it protects us, but invites us to new unique possibilities and worlds. “They both had dark hair and brownish-green eyes… one of them burned her hand on a stove. A few days later…” pontificates Veronique's eventual boyfriend Alexandre (Phillippe Voter); I’ll leave it to you to find out the rest of the line.