La Double vie de Véronique (1991) from Tuna

The Double Life of Veronique is a highly acclaimed Polish-French film directed by the legendary Polish auteur Krzysztof Kieslowski.

The story is deceptively simple. We first meet Weronik in Poland, a free spirited young woman who sings like an angel. She finally lands a music gig, and drops of a heart attack at her first performance. Cut to Veronique in Paris, who not only looks exactly like Weronik, but was born on the same day at the same time, sings, and suffers from heart trouble. Further, Veronique senses the passing of Weronik.

Veronique has sense enough to turn down a music career, realizing that her heart condition is not up to it. Love is another story, however. She sees a puppeteer at a school performance, and starts getting anonymous calls and gifts in the mail. She is not fooled, but is smitten. That is pretty much the plot. In the special features, Kieslowski also gives us the moral. "You must be careful what choices you make in your life."

At this point, I'll bet there is not a single one of you who wants to see this film. That would be a mistake. There is amazing photography in every single frame. Music is used as a cast member more effectively than in any other film I can think of. Irene Jacob gave a superlative performance. All of that doesn't scratch the surface of explaining the beauty of this film, which shows us the internal lives of its characters in the most intimate manner. I was captivated start to finish.


Scoop's notes:

Many people agree with Tuna's assessment, but many other respected critics hated this film. On balance, Veronique is generally considered to be Kieslowski's weakest effort from his post-Solidarity period. Here's his filmography from the last ten years of his life.

  1. (8.40) - Dekalog, szesc
  2. (8.37) - Dekalog, cztery
  3. (8.35) - Dekalog, dziesiec
  4. (8.23) - Krótki film o zabijaniu
  5. (8.22) - Krótki film o milosci
  6. (8.22) - Dekalog, piec
  7. (8.16) - Dekalog, dziewiec
  8. (8.14) - "Dekalog: Jeden (#1.1)"
  9. (8.08) - Dekalog, siedem
  10. (7.99) - Trois couleurs: Rouge
  11. (7.93) - Dekalog, dwa
  12. (7.89) - Dekalog, osiem
  13. (7.80) - Trois couleurs: Bleu
  14. (7.79) - Przypadek
  15. (7.72) - Dekalog, trzy
  16. (7.49) - Trzy kolory: Bialy
  17. (7.49) - Double vie de Véronique, La

Of course, Kieslowski's weakest is still better than most men's best, but the point is that it is an arty, "love it or hate it," kind of movie. The British critics, for example, scored it anywhere from 10/10 to 2/10. BBC was in the middle (3/5), but commented:  "Meandering through a maze of poetic ambiguity towards what could loosely be described as an ending, this precious puzzle of a picture would be hard-pressed to sustain interest without the spellbinding Jacob. That said, even the most smitten viewer may find that there's a bit too much of her flopping about like a dying swan."


DVD INFO (Criterion Collection)

  • Audio commentary by film scholar Annette Insdorf
  • Three short documentary films by Kieslowski: Factory (1970), Hospital (1976), and Railway Station (1980)
  • Kieslowski - Dialogue (1991), a documentary featuring a candid interview with Kieslowski and rare behind-the-scenes footage from the set of The Double Life of Veronique
  • 1966 - 1988: Kieslowski, Polish Filmmaker, a 2005 documentary tracing the filmmaker's work in Poland, from his days as a student through The Double Life of Veronique
  • A 2005 interview with actress Irene Jacob
  • New video interview with cinematographer Slawomir Idziak
  • New video interview with composer Zbigniew Preisner
  • The Musicians (1958), a short film by Kieslowski's teacher Kazimierz Karabasz
  • PLUS: A book featuring new essays by Jonathan Romney, Slavoj Zizek, and Peter Cowie, and excerpts from Kieslowski on Kieslowski


Full frontal nudity from Irene Jacob.

The Critics Vote ...

  • British consensus:  no consensus, but an average of about three stars out of four. Telegraph 2/10, Independent 8/10, Guardian 10/10, Times 6/10, Sun 8/10, FT 10/10, BBC 3/5.

  • It was nominated for a Golden Globe, but not the foreign language Oscar. Irene Jacob was chosen the best actress at Cannes.


The People Vote ...

  • Box Office Mojo. It grossed two million in the USA. That might not sound like much until you realize that it was only in 22 theaters. It was a mini-sensation on the arthouse circuit.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

Our own guideline:

  • A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre.
  • B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also assign a B- or better to a well-reviewed film which did not do well at the box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
  • C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are indistinguishable to you.
  • C means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others probably will not.
  • C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film, but films with this rating should be approached with caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C- and an E are indistinguishable to you.
  • D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-. Films rated below C- generally have both bad reviews and poor popular acceptance.
  • E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre.
  • F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.


Because it is a subtitled Kieslowski film, it is in art house territory, and therefore can only be C+ on our scale, but it is a masterpiece. If you are an Independence Day, The Rock, Mission Impossible type of guy, this is not your kind of movie. If you are up for a film where most of it takes place in the lead character's mind, and yours, then this is a very rewarding experience.

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