The Double Life of Veronique

Don’t you hate it when you settle down to watch a film which has had great reviews, only to find it is terrible?  It’s the worst, as you watch the gibberish of a story line unfold to no high point.  This film is one of those.

Views who felt compelled to comment on IMDB about this film marked it as a work of beauty, with a clever plot and lush camera work.  Now, maybe I have been spoilt with the work of Jean-Pierre Jeunet and his delectable Amelie, Delicatessen or Mic Macs with their remarkable filming and inquisitive characters, this film really pales in comparison.

Created in 1991 by the director Krysztof Kieslowski, this is a union of French/Norweigian/Polish.  This union probably should have stayed on the cutting room floor.  I would love to say that maybe I just didn’t understand what the director was trying to do, but sadly I think I do and for me it just didn’t work.

In Poland the dreamy and whimsical (a really polite way of saying annoying), Weronkia is an aspiring musician.  She dreams of singing, and despite her oddly beautiful voice, has very little actual professional experience.  We see her singing in an open air concert as it starts to rain, and she is left holding the high note in the down pour.  After the concert, she meets her boyfriend and they go back to his for a night of odd passion.

The next day, returning home, Weronika asks her father to tell her boyfriend that she is going to Krakow to be with her sick aunt (she could have just told him herself!) and that recently she feels that she is not alone in the world.

Heading to Krakow on the train, she looks at the views of the journey through a small toy ball which refracts the scenery and distorts it.

When she arrives in Krakow, she meets with her aunt, and talks about her boyfriend and then heads over to meet a friend at a rehearsal at the concert hall.  Sat in the back of the hall she harmonises with the practicing choir, catching the attention of the conductor who asks her to audition for them.  Weronika, rushes home with the sheet music, but on the way she passes through a square where a protest rally is taking place.  The music gets knocked out of her hand, and as she picks up the sheets of paper, a girl who looks exactly like her boards a bus, Weronika smiles and waves, but the girl doesn’t see her, as she is taking photos.  The bus drives off.

The next day she auditions and successfully gains a place with the choir.  As she is travelling on a tram studying sheet music, she sees her boyfriend behind the tram on his motorbike.  As she disembarks the tram, they talk to each other and she apologises for not returning his calls, he tells her that he loves her.   Later as she prepares for the concert, Weronkia sees an old woman crossing the street with heavy bags and she calls out that she will come and help, but gets told to get ready.

At the concert, Weronika, whilst holding a high note passes out and dies, her soul going over the audience in an out of body experience type fashion.

In Paris, Veronique, a music teacher, is overwhelmed with sadness after making love to her ex boyfriend (we have all been there), as if she is grieving, but she doesn’t know why.

The next day, Veronique, attends a marionette performance in the school where she works.  It is a story of a Ballerina who breaks her leg and turns in to a butterfly.  Back in her classroom she is teaching her class about the piece of music that Weronika had died singing.

As she drives home, she sees the puppeteer, who motions to her not to light the wrong end of her cigarette.  Later that night she is woken by a phone call where no one speaks, but the same piece of music is played to her.

The next day, Veronique goes to see her father where she reveals that she is in love with something she ahs never met, and that recently she has started to feel that she is alone.

Returning home she finds that someone has sent her a shoelace, which she throws away, but later that evening when she is woken by a strange light, she  retrieves the shoelace from the bin (god only knows why) and eventually holds it over a recent EKG report of hers, pulling it tight so it looks like a flat liner EKG.

Veronique learns that the puppeteer is also an author of a children’s book called Lubellule & Papillion, which his performance was also based on, another of his books is about a shoelace.  She reads some of his books over the next few days.

While visiting her father, he gives her a package which contains a cassette tape, which has a variety of sounds on it, including a typewriter, an announcement and the background noises of a café.  She eventually works out that the recording was made in a train station café and she decides to travel there.

On arriving she finds the puppeteer in the café and he says that he has been waiting there fore two days for her.  He explains that he is writing another book and wanted to see if she would follow the clues to find him.

Upset that she has been manipulated, she leaves the café and finds a hotel to stay in, but the puppeteer follows her and apologises.  They go up to her room and make love in one of the most depressing sex scenes I have ever had the displeasure to watch.  The puppeteer tells her he loves her and they fall asleep.

The next morning she tells the puppeteer that she never felt alone until recently, like there was someone out there the same.  On inspecting the contents of her handbag the puppeteer finds the proof sheet of her photographs from Krakow and comments on a photo that he thinks is her, but is in fact Weronika.  Veronique breaks down in tears and he comforts her, and then they make love again (I have no idea why as she really doesn’t look like she is that in to it).  She late finds the puppeteer making a puppet of her, and then realises that he has made two.  When she asks why, he says in case one gets damaged.

He shows her how to work the marionette, while the second lays lifeless on the table.

Some time later, Veronique is reading the puppeteers new book about two women who were not related, but born on the same day in different cities and who were inexplicably connected.

She drives to her fathers house and touches a tree outside the house, her father instinctive knows she is there.

Yes… It really is as dull as it sounds.  For anyone who has watched the series Sense 8 they will understand this theory as the one about limbic resonance.  About how people born at exactly the same time and date can share a deep emotional bond without ever meeting.  It’s almost like having a twin, without having to buy someone else a present on your birthday.

The way that this was presented in this film was clunky and slow.  I don’t feel that enough happened to really make it clear that there was any sort of connection between any of the characters.

The filming was dark and dingy and rather than feeling like something fantastic, it felt like some grim sets thrown together on a shoestring budget.

This film received a flurry of awards and nominations at the Cannes film review, but I really can’t see why.  Nothing particularly happens and the feelings of love were not portrayed well in my opinion.

So if you are looking for a film which is critically acclaimed and you want to say that you have watched it…this is the film for you.  If you don’t want to waste an hour and a half of your life on a disappointing film, maybe look for something else as this will leave you wondering why you watched it.

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