Directed by: Krzysztof Kieślowski
Written by: Krzysztof Kieślowski & Krzysztof Piesiewicz
Cast: Irene Jacob, Halina Gryglaszewska, Kalina Jedrusik, Aleksander Bardini, & Wladyslaw Kowalski
Run Time: 1 Hour and 38 Minutes
Availability: Streaming on Hulu Plus, DVD & Blu-Ray
Hello Krzysztof my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again.
Two weeks ago I began this cinematic journey with a review of Krzysztof Kieślowski’s “Three Colors: Red.” To make a long story short, I didn’t care for the film. While I found it visually stunning it suffered from a clunky narrative that tried to hard to say something but ended up saying nothing. As it turns out things aren’t much different in this weeks entry “The Double Life of Veronique.” Much like Red, Veronique is visually stunning and directed beautifully, however the narrative, while slightly better than Red, still left me cold and unmoved.
Irene Jacob plays a duel role and quite beautifully I might add. Weronika is a choir singer from Poland while Veronique is a music instructor from France. The two do not know each other yet their lives seem to parallel and they share a mysterious connection. How are they connected and what is the significance of the connection? That is the question Kieślowski poses to his audience.
Again, I cannot emphasize how impressive Kieślowski is as a director. Veronique is a beautiful film in terms of its technicality. The cinematography is breath-taking, the color palate is exquisite and the editing is masterful. Any student studying directing or cinematography can learn something about those respective crafts from Kieślowski’s films. Veronique famously won the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury and the FIPRESCI Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1991 and If we are judging this film solely on direction, then no doubt it deserved to win.
Like with “Three Colors: Red,” the big problem for me was the narrative. There is a scene in Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall,” which is one of my favorite films of all time, where Woody and Diane Keaton are waiting in line for a movie and a NYU professor in line behind them is critiquing the work of Federico Fellini. This professor refers to Fellini as an indulgent filmmaker. While watching Veronique I felt like that professor, as indulgent is how I feel about Kieślowski and the narratives he tells.
However to give praise where praise is due, Veronique is not as frustrating to watch as Red. Where Red was, I felt, unfocused and unsure of itself, Veronique at least has an idea of what it is trying to say. There is a proper ending and a sense of closure. Kieślowski gives his audience a story to work with and to come up with interpretations, unlike with “Red” where I found myself saying “What is this movie about?”
While it may be easier to watch than Red I still found Veronique to be a very indulgent film. It suffers from the same style over substance issues as Red. Veronique also suffers from a lack of characterization and character arcs. It is also filled with plot points that feel out of place or in some cases go unexplained. The opening of the film seems to have no significance on the rest of the story. Weronika just dies and it is never explained how this happens or the significance of it. There is supposed to be a romance between Veronique and another character, however it happens so fast and there is no built up at all. This film serves as another example of “stuff happens because the script says so.”
In doing some research I have found that this film is well-beloved because it explores the themes of identity, love and human intuition. The description on Hulu Plus even mentions that the film deals with those themes. I may have mentioned this in my review of Red but just because a film brings up certain issues and subject matters that does not automatically make the film good. What makes a film good to me are strong characters and a proper narrative. Veronique does not have these and because of that I feel the film does not explore these themes very well.
Like I said in my review Red, I will be the first to admit that perhaps my criticisms of Kieślowski may be attributed to my lack of formal education in the world of film. As a critic and potential future storyteller, I’m currently working on my first screenplay, I try and look for the good in every story. There is good in the work Kieślowski puts out. However his narratives just do nothing for me. Perhaps I am like the professor from “Annie Hall” and Kieślowski is my Fellini.
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