The Double Life of Veronique will have fans of Krzysztof Kieslowski taking sides. Despite pic’s many-splendored outbursts of filmic creativity and intense emotion, final result, about the opposite destinies of a Polish girl and a French girl who look alike and have the same name and tics, remains a head-scratching cipher with blurred edges.
Pic’s first third takes place in Poland in an almost perfect confluence of shots, editing and dialog that holds the viewer rapt. Weronika (Irene Jacob, dubbed by Anna Gronostaj) is a bubbly, happy girl in love with a young man (Jerzy Gudejko). While she’s visiting her aunt in Krakow, her extraordinary voice is discovered by a music teacher.
Her passion shifts from love to singing. She continues despite a dangerous heart condition, and in a scene of overwhelming intensity, dies on stage during a recital.
After the tight, punchy opening, film keeps its momentum for a little while in the French part. Veronique (also a singer) feels an inexplicable urge to quit voice training. She follows her instincts unhesitatingly, later mesmerized by a handsome puppeteer, Alexandre Fabbri (Philippe Volter), a writer of children’s books.
Jacob is a sparkling newcomer who imbues both roles with an innocent but powerful magic. Volter attracts as the shadowy puppeteer (a role originally offered to Italo actor-director Nanni Moretti).