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The Double Life of Veronique


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#1 Overstreet

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Posted 10 January 2006 - 02:48 PM

I've been challenged to provide a brief review and discussion question for "The Double Life of Veronique," and that requires I come up with a scripture verse that is in some way related to the film's themes.

I'm stumped. Any suggestions?

#2 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 05:54 AM

ok ... so this is the discussion thread linked by our Top 100 review and it's the only one that seems to actually have the title of the film in its title in the first place.

I also found this empty thread.

This thread, in which we have the following comments:

Veronique is a stunning mood piece with some of the most beautiful imagery in a movie I've seen, but it definitely lacks Kieslowski's usual ethical conundrums and tensions, making it seem a little less hefty in the grand scheme of things. (Especially sandwiched between The Decalogue and Trois Colours.) ...

With the exception of Blue, I actually prefer Veronique to the other films precisely because of that freedom from focus on "ethical conundrums and tensions." The inquisitive nature of his storytelling... as if even he has no idea where it's going to end up... paralleled by the inquisitive movement of the camera makes Veronique an entirely unique film, in my opinion. Every time I see it, I discover new ideas, new questions, new theories about what's going on in it.

I wish I could live in such a way that I could see the world all the time the way Kieslowski's camera sees the world. Kieslowski saw the world the way Damiel saw the world (and sometimes, alternately, the way Cassiel saw the world) in Wings of Desire... like an angel haunting his subjects, drawn to their beauty and the mysteries of their thoughts, choices, habits, and passions.

I agree with you in large part, Jeff--I like Veronique quite a bit--but I also think there's always the danger of artists falling into modes of ornamentation and abstraction that can become too removed from the reality of our lives. Kieslowski's other works are so firmly rooted in the real world, the difficult choices and struggles we face each and every day, that Veronique's picturesque effervescence almost seems flighty or easily digestible by comparison.

And then I found the Criterion does Kieslowski thread, in which the two substantive comments are (1):

Hmmm, just realized we already sort-of have a thread on The Double Life of Veronique here, except it's only got one post, and that, a brief one.

Anyhoo, I saw this film at the Cinematheque tonight; it was the first film (and, by now, possibly the only film) that I was able to catch during the 'theque's month-long Kieslowski series, and I hadn't seen it in something like a decade (when I watched it on VHS), so I figured I'd make the effort.

Loved the look (except when the picture got scratchy). Loved the sound (except when the soundtrack got scratchy). Loved the performances. Loved the scene where Irene Jacob spies the puppeteer in a mirror. Loved the statue of Lenin being hauled off to who-knows-where. Loved the scene where the guy blows his nose -- such an oddly humourous, almost out-of-place bit of mild bodily-function humour in such a high-toned artsy film. Loved the dwarf. Etc., etc., etc. But I'll be darned if I know what the movie's ABOUT.

The Lenin statue might offer a clue -- something to do with the fall of the Iron Curtain and the coming together of parallel worlds on opposite sides of that Curtain, in this case the worlds of Poland and France? Indeed, perhaps

Spoiler
even signifies a sense of how Western Europe might learn from Eastern Europe's example? Or perhaps it signifies how one way of life is about to be overwhelmed, or consumed? On one level, this film seems too metaphysical for such a political reading. Then again, Kieslowski DID put that big Lenin statue in there, right at the beginning.

I also find myself wondering if there is any deeper significance to the name Veronique/Veronica. The name is sort of a remix of the words "vera icon", meaning "true icon", and the saint of that name is the woman who supposedly wiped Jesus' face with a cloth as he was being led off to Calvary, only to discover that an image of his face was now permanently imprinted on her cloth; the image on her cloth is considered a "true icon" because it was not made by human hands. Perhaps there is a sense in which Veronique is Veronika's "true icon", or vice versa, because BOTH of these women reflect each other PERFECTLY? I.e., one is not a mere painting or artistic representation of the other, but instead, one is a perfect embodiment of the other?

Something like that, anyway.

and (2):

An experiment in making sense of the film, mostly because a friend of mine complained it couldn't be done.

Please do feel free to complicate things again. It's a lovely film, but discussion of it tends to be rather... brief and mystified.

I will admit I've made no headway on Peter's question: what is the film about? I think I understand how it functions, but if that adds up to something larger than the curious story of two beautiful women, I don't know what it is. I feel like it has to have something to do with the fall of the Berlin Wall, but every political metaphor I try to construct seems trite. Perhaps it's not really about the Eastern/Western Europe divide so much as that's one more means of emphasizing the unity/disunity conflict at the heart of the film. I think I would be all right if it weren't about anything else.

So does this represent the sum total of A&F discussion on this film to date?

Edited by Persiflage, 23 February 2012 - 05:56 AM.


#3 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 03:14 PM

So I've been looking over different reviews to try and understand what I saw the other night. None of them are really helping. I did read the little booklet that comes with the Criterion DVD:

... Nigel Andrews of the Financial Times commented, "I believe we are being hypnotized in The Double Life of Veronique ... How else to explain the ability of a French-Polish film with a nonsensical plot premise ... to enthrall and enchant us like no European film in recent history?" As Andrews enthusiastically but warily suggests, Kieslowski's film has the capacity to mesmerize. It invites analysis, yet it also encourages us, in its creation of a nebulous, numinous world, to bypass critical inquiry and to respond on a sensual, emotional, or even - if we are so inclined - spiritual level.

I like that they use the term "numinous" to describe the world of this film.

Then, in the section they have from Kieslowski discussing editing, it is fascinating that he actually says:

I'm one of those directors who parts very easily with whole chunks of material. I don't regret losing good scenes or beautiful ones or ones that were expensive or difficult to shoot. If they're superfluous to the film, I throw them out ruthlessly - with a certain amount of pleasure, even. The better they are, the easier it is for me to part with them, because I know that they're not being discarded because of their bad quality but only because they're unnecessary. Absolutely everything that isn't necessary has to be discarded. I usually shoot more scenes than there are in the final film. Later on, I throw them out with pleasure when I see they're not necessary. The editor even cries sometimes, "Such a beautiful shot! She played so beautifully in that scene!" But when I see it's not necessary, I really do cut it out without any qualms whatsoever. That's another problem with young directors. Namely, the way they're attached to their own material ... We all make these mistakes. The difficulty lies in being able to understand what is unnecessary.

Implying, of course, that Kieslowski decided that every single little shot in this film was "necessary."

And later:

What can you draw an audience with? What is commercialism? What draws an audience? Either the story you're telling or an actor who's well-known and brings people in to see the film, right? What advantages did I have in the case of Veronique? I had a completely unknown French actress who had played a tiny role in a film by Louis Malle and nothing else. Nobody knew who she was or even that she existed. And I had a weak and vague story line, and that's the way the story stayed - not very clear to everybody - a story about feelings, about a certain sensibility, a certain sensitivity that is really impossible to express in a film ... I'm not saying that everybody has to like Veronique. On the contrary, I think it's a film for a very limited group of people. I don't mean an age group or a social group but a group of people who are sensitive to the sort of emotions shown in the film. And such people can be found among the intelligentsia, among workers, among the unemployed, among students, and among old-age pensioners. I don't think it's a film for the elite, by any means, unless we call sensitive people elite.

... So what else could I want? The church didn't pay much attention to the film. I think it was too busy retrieving property that the Communists had confiscated from it after the war. And apart from that, it was busy worrying about abortion and religious instruction in schools. It hasn't got time for films at the moment, luckily.


Edited by Persiflage, 23 February 2012 - 03:16 PM.


#4 Overstreet

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 03:44 PM

Read Kieslowski on Kieslowski.
Read Double Lives, Second Chances, by Annette Insdorf.

I wrote a woefully insufficient summary in our Top 100.

But I'd love to have a thoughtful discussion on the themes of this film. I'm traveling and depending on fickle airport wifi, or I'd plunge right in. But later...

#5 kenmorefield

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Posted 23 February 2012 - 06:54 PM

FWIW, Isil Ozcan has an essay, "Music, Light, and the Kierkegaardian Instant in The Double Life of Veronique and Blue" in Volume I of Faith and Spirituality in Masters of World Cinema.









#6 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 24 February 2012 - 01:58 AM

Read Kieslowski on Kieslowski.
Read Double Lives, Second Chances, by Annette Insdorf.

I wrote a woefully insufficient summary in our Top 100.

But I'd love to have a thoughtful discussion on the themes of this film. I'm traveling and depending on fickle airport wifi, or I'd plunge right in. But later...

FWIW, Isil Ozcan has an essay, "Music, Light, and the Kierkegaardian Instant in The Double Life of Veronique and Blue" in Volume I of Faith and Spirituality in Masters of World Cinema.

Thanks. I'll work on those reading assignments. I've been meaning to acquire a copy of Kieslowski on Kieslowski for a while now since seeing The Decalogue, so it's high time I ordered one.

And yes, let's do have a discussion on Veronique. After I've been able to process it a little more, I'll post a few comments of my own.

#7 Anders

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Posted 24 February 2012 - 09:23 AM

And yes, let's do have a discussion on Veronique. After I've been able to process it a little more, I'll post a few comments of my own.


Hope to be able to join in soon. VERONIQUE is at the top of my Ziplist (the Canadian version of Netflix queue).

#8 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 24 February 2012 - 08:28 PM

Hope to be able to join in soon. VERONIQUE is at the top of my Ziplist (the Canadian version of Netflix queue).

If you can, still try to watch it on as big of a screen and with as high of a sound quality as possible.

#9 Anders

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Posted 25 February 2012 - 03:12 PM


Hope to be able to join in soon. VERONIQUE is at the top of my Ziplist (the Canadian version of Netflix queue).

If you can, still try to watch it on as big of a screen and with as high of a sound quality as possible.


Well, I've got the Blu-ray coming and I'll watch it on my home theatre system (32' Samsung HD LCD, and Sony 5.1 sound).

#10 andrew_b_welch

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Posted 27 June 2013 - 03:02 PM

Since it's Kieslowski's birthday, I wanted to share this piece I did a few years ago.