One of the most oblique, entrancing and endlessly watchable films in the history of the medium, The Double Life of VÃ©ronique is the last major work from Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski to find a home on DVD. If Kieslowski's Trois Couleurs films Blue, White and Red were an explosion in our world cinema consciousness circa 1993-94, then 1991's VÃ©ronique ' which shares those later titles' layered visual beauty and minimalist meditations on fate and coincidence ' was the fuse that ignited the eruption.
VÃ©ronique concerns two women linked as through symbiosis, but not in a Persona or Three Women kind of way. Kieslowski's interest is more spiritual and metaphysical than dramatic or psychological. His doppelgÃ¤ngers, both played by IrÃ¨ne Jacob of Red, never meet save a brief glance on a bustling street, with a mysterious departure by half of the duo a third of the way into the film. It's a stunning moment usurped only by, well â?¦ each and every moment that follows it.
French music teacher VÃ©ronique feels a bizarre longing after the passing of her unknown twin, Polish choir soprano Weronika. It's a connection she can't escape. Visually, Kieslowski frequently places her near reflective objects that double her form. In the slim narrative, she also receives anonymous packages in the mail that link her to objects and sounds from Weronika's life. It all appears to be the work of a Godlike puppeteer ' Philippe Volter, standing in for Kieslowski himself? ' pulling the strings on VÃ©ronique/Weronika, literally, like a pair of marionettes.
Jacob is pure iridescence; Slawomir Idziak's pale yellow-hued photography is pure gold, and Kieslowski's direction is pure cinema. Every sequence is unpredictable. Since the film refreshingly tells you very little, it invites discussion.
You'll get many interpretations from this two-disc Criterion set, supplemented with Kieslowski ' Dialogue, a 1991 documentary with exclusive footage of the director at work on VÃ©ronique titled 1966-1988: Kieslowski, Polish Filmmaker. The doc traces his time in his native country, and adds new interviews with Idziak and composer Zbigniew Preisner, plus a 2005 interview with Jacob. One of the best contemporary film scholars, Annette Insdorf, provides a commentary track; film historian Peter Cowie contributes one of three essays in the booklet.
The disc's finest gems may be the documentary shorts ' Kieslowski's early, vÃ©ritÃ©-style projects Factory, Hospital and Railway Station reveal a side of the filmmaker few have seen. They were inspired by The Musicians, a short by Kieslowski's teacher Kazimierz Karabasz, also supplied here.
If there's a better gift to give a cinephile than this Double DVD, I can't imagine what it could be.