The American Society of Cinematographers

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Return to Table of Contents April 2007 Return to Table of Contents
Hirschfeld, ASC
Post Focus
DVD Playback
Pandora's Box
Who's Afraid
The Double Life
ASC Close-Up
The Double Life of Vronique (1991)
1.66:1 (16x9 Enhanced)
Dolby Digital 2.0
The Criterion Collection, $39.95

The Criterion Collection continues its tradition of excellence with this edition of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s The Double Life of Véronique, a disc that will please the director’s fans and serve as a fine introduction to his work for the uninitiated. A pristine transfer, an insightful commentary track, and multiple documentaries and interviews make this a worthwhile purchase, and the inclusion of rare Kieslowski short films makes it essential.

Double Life tells the story of two women, Polish singer Veronika and French music teacher Véronique (both played by Iréne Jacob), who are identical in appearance and share a psychic bond, in spite of the fact that they’ve never met. Both women are searching for emotional fulfillment, and cinematographer Slawomir Idziak, PSC (Three Colors: Blue) visualizes this quest through poetic images that express the theme of doubling. The movie explores the physical and spiritual connections that link human beings to one another, and the filmmakers treat this premise with an intimacy that makes it powerful rather than pretentious.

Idziak and Kieslowski established a visual plan for the film as the screenplay was being written, creating a series of visual motifs that allow the story to unfold more through images than plot or dialogue. From the opening POV shot of an upside-down Polish street, the film invites the viewer to become an active participant in the narrative.

Double Life’s impact is due to its careful calibration of light, color and sound design, and this delicate balance has been impeccably preserved on this transfer. The Dolby Digital 2.0 sound mix reveals remarkable nuances not only in Zbigniew Preisner’s score but also in the sound effects. Idziak’s palette is also vibrant and subtle in equal measures, and the cinematographer discusses his approach to the film in a 25-minute featurette produced for this DVD. Supplements also include conversations with Jacob and Preisner.

The additional supplements are true treasures for Kieslowski fans. “1966-1988: Kieslowski, Polish Filmmaker” is an outstanding 30-minute documentary that focuses on the director’s work up to and including Double Life. The hour-long 1991 featurette “Kieslowski-Dialogue” documents the making of Double Life and provides a detailed account of the director’s process.

Kieslowski began his career as a documentary filmmaker, and three of his nonfiction shorts — Factory (1970), Hospital (1976) and Railway Station (1980) — are included in this package. His eye for composition and editing is apparent right from the start, but his early work is more overtly political than his later projects.

This package also includes an exemplary audio commentary by film professor Annette Insdorf, who combines biographical details with critical analysis in an engaging way. Her remarks illuminate another of the disc’s special features, an alternate ending created for the movie’s U.S. release. This resolution was mandated by U.S. distributor Miramax Films, and Kieslowski turned it into a creative triumph. The revised final shot shows two characters embracing through a window in a composition that displays their image in both frame right and frame left, perfectly resolving the film’s theme of doubling. The American ending is neither inferior nor superior to the European ending, and Insdorf notes that at one point Kieslowski wished to release the movie with a different ending for every Paris theater in which it played! Both endings serve as fitting finales to one of the great European films of the 20th century.

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