Filmmaker Kieslowski Unravels Mysterious Lives
THE Polish cinema has spawned a number of excellent filmmakers. Andrzej Wajda, Krzysztof Zanussi, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Agnieszka Holland, and Jerzy Skolimowski, to name a few, are widely respected by European and discriminating United States audiences. Many of these filmmakers have protested the repressions of communism as well as Western society's embrace of materialism. Ironically, since the collapse of communism in Poland, the Polish film industry has suffered terribly.Telluride Film Festival presented the US premiere of Kieslowski's new "The Double Life of Veronique." A major success this year at Cannes, "Veronique" won for its star the coveted Best Actress award. The film continues a long line of investigation for Kieslowski involving the search for meaning. It is a beautifully made, somewhat "Frenchified" piece - not as morally searching as his "Decalogue" (a 10-film cycle based on the 10 Commandments) nor as vigorous as his early "Camera Buff." Still, the charming, somewhat mysterious "Veronique" is a gem. The highly romantic story concerns two women born at the same time, one in Poland, the other in France, who look exactly alike, are gifted singers, and have heart disorders. The same actress, Irene Jacob, plays both roles. In the first story, Polish Veronika dies at the height of a concert. In the second, French Veronique gives up singing, takes care of her heart, and falls in love with a mysterious stranger, a puppeteer and fairy tale writer. His courtship of her is as mysterious as her life's riddle. His small tokens all relate to Polish Veronika - a piece of string, a tape with Veronika's haunting voice, etc. The odd story undermines ordinary realism. Nothing is explained, the link between the women least of all. But taking the story metaphorically, it points to possibilities beyond the realm of scientific explanation. As metaphor, too, the odd tale has something to say about the individual's ability to choose, to stop abruptly and change one's course for the better. One woman makes her choices, the other makes different choices somehow based on the first Veronika's mistakes. (Each woman has only the merest glimpse of the other's existence.) If one had the chance to look in the mirror of experience and be conscious ("attentive" in Kieslowski's terms) and then "do it over," would one change? Kieslowski says we do have the capacity to put our lives into proper perspective, to learn from each other and from our own mistakes, but that we are too often taken up with the cares of daily life to bother. "As a society we fail to draw conclusions from history, we don't know how to do it. But as individuals we do use our own experience. We do learn from previous generations and from history. That I believe deeply... "The reason the [stories] are in the order they are in, is so we wouldn't feel everything is tragic or absurd," Kieslowski says. "I assumed the opposite - that there is order..." Like so much of Kieslowski's earlier work, "Veronique" represents a quest. "How to live: It's a constant question and theme in all my work. Not the answer, but the question. "It is a quest film, for me, for the actress who plays Veronique, and for those who watch the film and think about it," Kieslowski says. For the director, what counts is the desire to feed the deeper needs of the human heart.