The Double Life of Veronique Studio: The Criterion Collection # 359 Rated: R Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Audio: English DD 2.0 Subtitles: English Time: 97 minutes Disc Format: 2 DVD-9’s Case Style: Double disc gatefold in slipcase Theatrical Release Date: 1991 DVD Release Date: November 21, 2006 As The Double Life of Veronique starts, we are immediately thrown off kilter seeing the world from two young girls, one Polish, one French, different perspectives. We are introduced to the now older Polish girl, Weronika (Irene Jacob) who has the voice of an angel to compensate for her burned hands that ended her piano career. She is seen taking in her world with the help of her aunt and father, as well as the random male companion she falls for. Weronika is chosen for the lead voice in an upcoming musical performance where she literally sings her heart out. She shows us her life through her distorted images of her surroundings (a small, clear bouncing ball) that is linked together like a piece of string she eagerly holds on to. Director Krzysztof Kieslowski then jumps us over to Veronique (Jacob, obviously, in the dual role), a French music teacher whose life will bear striking similarities to her Polish counterpart. Veronique lays in bed as her male lover leaves, and she is pained by an unexplainable sense of grief, that may have forced her into giving up her music lessons. Veronique is tied to her father and often goes to him for advice, as well as her friends who are trying to rope her into their divorce proceeding. During a marionette performance at her school, Veronique spies Alexandre (Philippe Voltare) and they soon begin a passionate, heart wrenching affair. All the while, her life is shown to us as a reflection of Weronika’s life, down to a near chance meeting that produces a photographic link as proof to their dualities. The culmination of Veronique’s story my signal peace for both women. I am purposely leaving the synopsis of this review sparse so that you may get a basic sense of what this picture is about in the hopes you will seek it out and experience it for yourself. I’ve done approximately 50 reviews for HTF, and many of the pictures don’t stick with me much longer than it takes to write the review. This one, however, has had a lasting impact in much the same way Blue Velvet did for me many years ago. The plot specifics noted above scratch the surface of what is going on in The Double Life of Veronique and Kieslowski uses the medium to tell the rest of the story through sound, music, lighting and camera movements. Kieslowski has been recognized as a master in his homeland, and when the picture debuted at Cannes in 1991, it was no surprise it received the attention it did. Kieslowski pulls the viewer in via his lead actress, Irene Jacob (who won best actress at Cannes that year) to tell the story of two separate but similar women who are very much alike (confusing, isn’t it?). The use of music in this story makes it a pivotal part of the overall drama, nearly becoming a character itself. A more recent example of this was Wong Kar Wai’s use of music in 2046. Through the course of the picture, and further testimonials in the documentaries, we can see how good a picture can be in a collaborative atmosphere: Kieslowski explains how many people he consulted during the production of the picture, including his teenage daughter who convinced him to hire Jacob. When all of these elements come together, the viewer should be taken on a mental and emotional journey that echoes aspects of their life. The Double Life of Veronique does just that: it allows you to ponder the cosmic coincidences that can affect two lives while at the same time you find yourself caring about the character’s fates, wanting them to be happy in the end, knowing they may not be. Weronika’s life seems to be untainted by the imminent coming of age whereas Veronique’s seems strangled by it. In Kieslowski’s hands, we see hope and promise in both cases. Video: The picture is correctly framed at 1.66:1 and it is an anamorphic transfer. Criterion is good enough to provide us with more information about the transfer itself, so I will pass this along: “This new high-definition digital transfer was created by scanning the 35mm original negative on a Spirit Datacine in 2K resolution, and color corrected on a Specter Virtual Datacine. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, and scratches were removed using the MTI Digital Restoration System.” There has apparently been some discussion on various forums regarding the correct colors on this picture, but the DVD accurately represents Idziak’s intent according to the documentary with him on disc two, and you can see some of the differences in the docs. I have to say, this is a visually stunning use of various filters. Kieslowski and his cinematographer, Slawomir Idziak, utilize red, yellow and green filters to skew the picture and enhance the story and the characters. They also use instances of bright lights (to the point it almost seems it’s an error) to spotlight Weronika/ Veronique to make them appear to be players in their own lives. We can also see how the picture looked in some of the unseen footage and just how good this new transfer looks. The color palate plays to those color filters (blue is virtually absent) while maintaining their accuracy for the most part and putting those tinges on the rest of the environment. Blacks are suitably deep, but shadow detail gets lost in most of the darker scenes; it also brings out some video noise. Edge enhancement was noticeable in places. Audio: I watched the disc with the Dolby Digital 2.0 track engaged, which is the only option. Criterion tells us, “The soundtrack was mastered at 24-bit from the 35mm magnetic tracks, and audio restoration tools were used to reduce clicks, pops, hiss, and crackle.” The soundtrack has very good stereo imaging that gives a good impression of a bigger soundstage. The music is truly spotlighted in the feature, and this soundtrack makes very good use of it. The scene in the Polish theater where Weronika has her big performance comes alive in a wash of strings and her beautiful, haunting vocal. Bass effects are minimal and make one main appearance when Veronique is listening to the tape on her headphones. Highs and mids are the true star of this show and they are beautifully reproduced, free from any distortion or other distractions. Bonus Material: These items are spread out over both discs, with a majority of them on disc two. Audio commentary by Annette Insdorf, author of Double Lives, Second Chances: The Cinema of Krzysztof Kieslowski: This is an excellent commentary track by Insdorf that helped to clarify certain ambiguous aspects of the story for me. She spends almost all of the time on the story itself, leaving the Kieslowski appreciation to the other documentaries. Three short documentary films by Kieslowski: Factory (1970), Hospital (1976),Railway Station (1980), and The Musicians (1958): a short film by Kieslowski’s teacher, Kazimierz Karabasz (total running time: 1:03:14). The U. S. Ending: Harvey Weinstien talked Kieslowski into adding in four shots for the U. S. release. While it’s not a huge change, I much rather preferred the slightly more ambiguous original ending. Kieslowski- Dialogue (1991) (52:40): a documentary featuring a candid interview with the director and behind the scenes footage from the shoot. Nearly as haunting as the feature, Kieslowski leads us through the shoot and adds in his philosophies and thoughts on life and film. He discusses the history of Polish filmmakers dating back into the 70’s and how it became a very evolutionary medium in the country. There are also asides on collaboration and censorship, and filmmaking in general. It is well worth the time to learn more about Kieslowski and his process. 1966-1988: Kieslowski, Polish Filmmaker (30:36): this 2005 documentary features his work in Poland from his student films to through The Double Life of Veronique. A crash course in Polish history and film that shows the beginnings of the Lodz school of film where Kieslowski attended and began his first work. The doc delves into the themes common to many of Kieslowski’s pictures as well as his progression from documentary to drama. This is a good primer on the Polish film scene and Kieslowski. New interviews with cinematographer Sowomir Idziak (24:14), composer Zbigniew Preisner (21:12), and Irene Jacob (16:44): Idziak provides some very good information about the look of the picture and his professional relationship with Kieslowski. Specifically, he comments on the use of the filters and how his view of the picture conflicted with Kieslowski’s, although Idziak’s won out in the end. Preisner details his collaboration with Kieslowski, coming off almost bitter at times. Jacob explains how Kieslowski wanted her to infuse Weronika/ Veronique with her own ideas and traits. A good, if not too quick interview with this beautiful actress. Also included in the package is a 64 page booklet with essays by Jonathan Romney, Slavouj Zizek, and Peter Cowie and selections from Kieslowski on Kieslowski. Conclusions: A study in the duality of souls, or how two seemingly unrelated people can be so much alike, Krzysztof Kieslowski’s The Double Life of Veronique finally makes its Criterion debut in an exceptional two disc set. The DVD is filled with a great new transfer and a relevant and plentiful set of extras.