Watching The Double Life of Veronique, I can only describe my emotional experience, as a feeling that my skin was too tight. Even I’m not sure what that means exactly, but it certainly evokes that crawling emotional tug that at your very soul. It moves beyond simple emotional and intellectual appeal, reaching even deeper at something that is as mysterious as life itself. Is that what Kieslowski is exploring? I’m not entirely sure. What I remember from Trois Couleurs: Rouge was a fascination with the interconnectedness of life, the idea that our impact on each other is not miniscule, but crucial. Though made several years before, this film takes this idea to an entirely new level, presenting the idea that two lives and souls can be joined without ever knowing the other exists.
What can I say? One of those cases where a film pushes me back, and I am struck with awe. I am hit with the powerful confrontation of witnessing and experiencing something special and rare, even though I don’t quite grasp why or what is happening.
What struck me as the revelatory moment was perhaps Veronique’s sudden bout of melancholia, an incredible sense of mourning even though she hasn’t lost anything or anyone, at least nothing that she is aware of. It’s presented in an intimate scene, that though I’d say is very “warm”, is characterized by loneliness. It took me a lot longer to realise how much of the film is simply us watching Veronique live. It’s even rare that she would share the screen, or scene with anyone else. If she does, for the most part it’s passive or inquisitive. There is still a pervading sense of isolation. The comfort that she finds lies more in mysterious packages she receives in the mail, and a song that is not only eerily beautiful, but serves as a link to her loss. The audience knows why it holds such a powerful effect, which makes it’s use as a theme throughout the latter half of the film so affecting.
I think it’s in this that the film’s effect felt so profound, that same loneliness that’s familiar, even when surrounded. The little joys that make it surmountable, and the promise of happiness of love, however distant. Even though a very real part of Veronique dies, there is still a life to live. A life filled with discovery and surprises, and opportunity. I wonder, though… is that part really dead, or does it continue to live in through Veronique instead? Is she now occupying two souls instead of one?
There are many mirrors in this film, some reflect, and others shatter or distort. The only strong conclusion I can make about the film, is that it’s dealing with the soul, and it’s incredible possibilities. I don’t know what a soul is, I don’t even know if I have one, but The Double Life of Veronique makes me believe that one exists. Is that a strength? Or am I subscribing to a faith, that I’m not even sure I believe it? I don’t really understand, this film has left me confused and broken. I feel invigorated and saddened all at once.
What of the relationships? Sexual or otherwise, they hold grand importance in the life of our beautiful protagonists. The role of the father seems incredibly important, there is a non-existent mother in both cases, death was too soon for both. Both women seem to have a healthy sexual appetite, but some reviews/essays I read suggest a willing, or perhaps, unwilling allowance of dominance. I’m not sure if I agree, though there is certainly a submissive nature to each of them, almost a naivety. The relationships seem more to point to a wholeness, as at their height, allowing for a fullness that both lack. Veronique especially searching for someone to replace that emptiness she feels. I think it’s a natural yearning for connection and, what I can only conclude as a sort of need we have for others. The soul perhaps does not exist in one piece, and must be put together through the meetings and encounters we make. Maybe?
I don’t really know, I did like it.