THE DOUBLE LIFE OF VERONIQUE (1991)

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“Reality is not always probable, or likely.”

                                                     – Jorge Luis Borges

The Double Life of Veronique is the experience that we have all known, one time or another, but have never been able to give voice to. It is that German idea of the doppelgänger, the double, an entity existing independently, but wearing your face, and bearing your grief. As if you have visited the same place, perhaps a coffee house, or a certain area of a city, many years after you first visited, and have forgotten particulars, but know that you have been there, or know at least that a version of you was once here, long ago. Yet there is something missing. You feel alone, but know that you are not.

And so a beautiful French woman (Irene Jacobs, who we are supposed to fall in love with from the very first moment) captures a polaroid image of a beautiful Polish woman. They are the same, but she does not notice her. She does not know that her Polish spectre is, like her, a singer, has heart problems, experiences the world in singular bursts of beauty, and longs to feel loved and meaningful. She only feels the terrible pain when the apparition of herself dies, in another country, singing before a vast audience, and swoops spirit-like over their heads to some great beyond. She only feels the electricity of some connection. We all do.

There are other beautiful connections. The most crucial exists between the puppeteer and Veronique. At first we sense that he offers truth, illumination, some kind of answers. But he is only playing a game. He wants to know if a woman can fall in love with a man who she does not know (or, perhaps, a woman seen from a moving bus). They fall in love anyway. He creates two Veronique puppets, one in perpetual movement, the other lying prone and motionless. First there is one Veronique, and then there is another. Does one feed on the other, succubus-like? Kieslowski is not interested in the answers. We are at the limits of the knowable. Everything is filtered. Veronique views her world through windows, glass, translucent surfaces. The world turns upside down, refracted and capsized. Even the colour of this world seems an unreality, and we wonder if it might all be just a dream, after all.

As I watch films, more and more of them, I carry them around with me. They seep into my bones. They affect the ways I experience the world around me, in even the smallest things. Some are forgotten, or lost. Some remain with me, like a flashbulb, and influence the way that I live my life. It is the same with any art. Through it, we create more than one ‘us’, another version of ourselves, one seen through a hall of mirrors, or viewed at a distance in an art gallery. We transcend ourselves, and create multitudes.

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