It is not every day that we stop in our tracks and pause for a moment because something seems strangely familiar or appears to have happened to us at some distant moment in time. The uncanniness that most of us try to attach some meaning to is a product of strong human intuition and profound connection. Sometimes the contents of a future conversation may already be known to you or certain situations might have been seen or confronted in the past. Could this precognitive ability and familiarity with people and places signal a clash of one’s past with their present? Or is this just a fleeting moment that shouldn’t be read into as much?
The Double Life of Veronique is a Polish film that talks about the existence of two individuals who are entirely the same in their physical characteristics, perceptions and idiosyncratic qualities. Born on the same day, the only thing that separates the two protagonists is their place of birth and national identity. In the beginning of the film, little can be deciphered as a mix of symbolic imagery appears one after another closely mirroring Freud’s concept of free association where certain objects and memories themselves have a double meaning attached to them. It is only later that the audience links these disparate moments in time together.
Placed against a growing backdrop of existential angst, The Double Life of Veronique raises more questions than answers about parallel existences and double identities. The director Kyrzysztof Kieslowski does not try to provide a concrete resolution surrounding the epiphanic connection that both the characters in his film feel. Instead, he focuses on the intensity and profundity of their bond replicating it in his use of reflections and stillness between frames. Veronique’s reflections on glass windows could be signifying the idea that there is some dualistic vision attached to everything—nothing is ever as complete or whole as we construct it to be. It is only when Veronique almost catches a glimpse of someone much like her own self that she starts questioning her sudden rush of emotions. She feels that she’s existing in two places at once— living parts of her own life while also experiencing some moments twice. This existence of a connection which is beyond her comprehension not only punctuates every step she takes but also those she doesn’t take.
The Double Life of Veronique demands to be felt, not just seen or understood much like our own tussles with inexplicable coincidences. Throughout the film, the importance of one moment or memory is not realised until much later as the narrative technique of the film does not focus on tying loose ends together so tightly. Similarly, the discourse between characters is relatively obscure as a lot remains unspoken and unsaid. This growing silence creates prolonged moments of self-reflection as the film not only forces the audience to create their own meaning out of such enigmatic circumstances but also asks its protagonists to dissect their own relationship with one another.
This film will make you wonder whether two mostly identical individuals or doppelgangers can co-exist simultaneously. Out of the billions of people who cross your path, can a possible version of yourself sense your absence or presence? And if they do—do they stop in their tracks for a solitary moment before getting lost in a crowd of seamless faces? Would you ever meet or simply cross one another, never to be seen again?