The Double Life of Véronique / Krzysztof Kieślowski / 1991 /

Active Ingredients: Irène Jacob; Cinematography; Music
Side Effects: Side plots

The Double Life of Véronique is a spellbinding existential inquiry, a delicate and curious search for meaning and a wise enough film to know that no answers could satisfy as much as the questions themselves. For all its heady mysteries of identity and existence, this film teems with worldly pleasures, foremost among them the rapturous cinematography of Slawomir Idziak. With its warm greens and faded browns, Idziak’s palette is limitlessly expressive, giving each scene (or even shot) its own unique glow. Combined with Kieślowski’s patience and ability to find humor, pathos and humanity in life’s most mundane details, the visual effect of the film is astonishing, warm and inviting, at once familiar and nostalgic, yet brave and unknown.

The film’s other great pleasure is a mesmerizing double performance, one of cinema’s best, from Irène Jacob, playing a young Polish singer and a French schoolteacher who share an unspoken connection. Jacob is enchanting and effortless, bewitching the audience without even trying. Her characters are beautiful inside and out, and Jacob lays their souls bare, navigating profound wells of emotion without ever resorting to hysteria or hyperbole. She is graceful and always specific even at her most fragile. Kieślowski, with his camera and magnetic lead, wrenches meaning and feeling from every frame and never strains or overreaches. He’s an earnest director who marries his humble investigations into life’s mysteries with an unmatched visual poetry, and The Double Life of Véronique is his greatest accomplishment.