Through the Looking-Glass and Beyond

Material Information

Through the Looking-Glass and Beyond Mirrors, Doubles, and the Uncanny in Krzysztof Kieslowski's La Double Vie De Veronique
Kupfer, Stephanie
Place of Publication:
[Gainesville, Fla.]
University of Florida
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1 online resource (45 p.)

Thesis/Dissertation Information

Master's ( M.A.)
Degree Grantor:
University of Florida
Degree Disciplines:
Romance Languages and Literatures
Committee Chair:
Blum, Sylvie E.
Committee Members:
Weltman-Aron, Brigitte
Graduation Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Death ( jstor )
Fathers ( jstor )
Film criticism ( jstor )
Images ( jstor )
Motion picture industry ( jstor )
Movies ( jstor )
Reality ( jstor )
Singing ( jstor )
Viewers ( jstor )
Women ( jstor )
Romance Languages and Literatures -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
cinema, france, international, jacob, kieslowski, poland, veronique
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
born-digital ( sobekcm )
French thesis, M.A.


Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts THROUGH THE LOOKING-GLASS AND BEYOND: MIRRORS, DOUBLES, AND THE UNCANNY IN KRZYSZTOF KIESLOWSKI?S LA DOUBLE VIE DE VERONIQUE By Stephanie Kupfer August 2009 Chair: Dr. Sylvie Blum-Reid Major: French Since his death in 1996, much attention has been brought to the cinema of Krzysztof Kie?lowski, particularly to his last four films. These final films of his life and career took him in a new direction; he worked outside of Poland for the first time and entered into the territory of international coproduction, with France in particular. Although his Trois Couleurs trilogy would be much more popular, it was La Double Vie de Ve acuteronique that became Kie?lowski?s bridge to France following Poland?s political shift from communism to democracy in 1989. Ve acuteronique grew from his successful film series The Decalogue and, in turn, planted the seeds for Bleu, Blanc, and Rouge. La Double Vie de Ve acuteronique is a hauntingly beautiful film that shies away from concrete explanation, relying instead on sentiments and the unexplainable, often posing more questions than it answers. Because so much of the film lies in the experience of watching it, it can be difficult to attempt a structured analysis. However, the application of certain theories can help make the task more manageable. Freud?s theory of the Uncanny, for example, provides a theoretical framework through which we can examine the different elements of the film that create a feeling of disquiet in the spectator, with particular focus on the idea of the Doppelga umlautnger, or double. Working with Deleuze?s idea of the ?image-cristal?, as presented by Emma Wilson, provides another way to explore the film, concentrating on the mirror as both reflective surface and passageway between two worlds. ( en )
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In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
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Includes vita.
Includes bibliographical references.
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Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
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This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 2009.
Adviser: Blum, Sylvie E.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Stephanie Kupfer.

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University of Florida
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University of Florida
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Copyright Kupfer, Stephanie. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.
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2 2009 Stephanie Kupfer


3 To my family for their boundless love a nd support and to the friends who made me laugh when I needed it most


4 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I thank Dr. Sylvie Blum Reid for nurturing my interest in cinema and for being a trusted advisor and friend ; Dr. Weltman Aron for her continu ed encouragement and for inspiring me to pursue an M.A. in French ; and the faculty of the French department at the University of Florida for instilling in me a love of French language literature and culture




6 Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS AND BEYOND: MIRRORS, DOUBLES, AND THE UNCANNY IN KRZYSZTOF KIESLOWSKI LA DOUBLE VIE DE VERONIQUE By Stephanie Kupfer August 2009 Chair: Dr. Sylvie Blum Reid Major: French Since his death in 1996, much attention has been brought to the cinema of Krzysztof Kie his last four films Th ese final films of his life and career took him in a new direction ; he worked outside of Poland for the first time and entered into the territory of international coproduction, with France in particular. Alth ough his Trois Couleurs trilogy would be much more popular, it was La Double Vie de Vronique to i cal shift from communism to democracy in 1989 Vronique grew from his successful film series T he Decalogue and in turn, plant ed the seeds for Bleu Blanc and Rouge La Double Vie de Vronique is a hauntingly beautiful film that shies away from concrete explanation, relying instead on sentiments and the unexplainable, often posing more questions than it answers. Because so much of the film lies in the experience of watching it, it can be difficult to attempt a structured analysis. However, the application of certain theories can help make the task more manageable. or example, provides a theoretical frame work through which we can examine the different elements of the film that create a feeling of disquiet in the spectator, with particular focus on the idea of the


7 Doppelg Emma Wilson, p rovides another way to explore the film, concentrating on the mirror as both reflective surface and passageway between two worlds.


8 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCT ION .. Since his death in 1996, an incredible amount of work has been published on Krzysztof Ki critics and continues to do so. It is clear that there is something about these films that inspires (or even requires) personal and critical reflection. Emma Wilson, in the preface to Memory and themes in that may or may not be a determiner of fates. One becomes acutely aware of this while watching Polish film, La Double Vie de Vronique Joseph G. K ickasola, in his book describes the experience of Vronique impressions such as the feeling throughout the film that litt le understood, herculean forces are the film hinges on the experience of watching it, not simply on an understanding of its story, characters and use of metapho experience [it]. [It is], without a doubt, more considers pure emotions in Vronique hips which are


9 La Double Vie de Vronique ? words do j ustice seems self e seems to contradict the very nature of his films, particularly of those co produced in France in the 1990s. And to write about his films at all, one must acknowledge and accept the very real possibility of being unable to find the words to do so. In my film made in collaboration with France, La Double Vie de Vronique I will advance in two major directions. I will conduct a reading of the film in conjunction nny ( Das Unheimliche examine Vronique mirror and the mirror image, drawing accordingly from t he cinematic theories of Deleuze. Before presenting the theoretical framework and subsequent analyses, however, I find it make La Double Vie de Vronique as wel l as the Trois Couleurs trilogy in France. n in Warsaw, Poland on June 27, 1941. Because of his


10 mother was import 2). The absence of one parent is present in La Double Vie de Vronique : both Weronika and Vronique lose their mothers at a young age and have only their fathers. One wonders if p erhaps his part, imagining something that was not a possibility in his own life. In order to properly situate La Double Vie de Vronique it is necessary t o look at those of namely The Decalogue and the Trois Couleurs respectively. Vronique can be regarded as the bridge between these two films rk ; it has its own roots in the Decalogue but also plants the seeds for the Trois Couleurs The Decalogue released in Poland between 198 8 and 1990, is a made for television series comprised of ten films based on the Ten Commandments. Decal ogue 9 althoug h focusing primarily on a married couple, briefly introduces the character of woman named Olga a young singer with a heart condition. This minor character would eventually be fleshed out and become the basis for Weronika and Vronique. And following Vron ique Bleu Blanc and Rouge the three films collectively known as the Trois Couleurs Trilogy. Bleu starring Juliette Binoche, brings back in a central role the music of fictional composer Van den Budenmayer, who was also fe atured in Decalogue 9 and Vronique In Rouge Irne Jacob will again take on a l ead role, this time as a young model named Valentine. Blanc positioned between Bleu and Rouge both in the trilogy and on the French flag, acts as another sort of bridge, muc h like Vronique Although much of the film takes place in Poland (and is in Polish), France and the French language are still represented by Julie Delpy It is


11 also interesting to note that t white and red, make up two thirds of the trilogy and of the French flag; just another way in which the two countries are connected by Kie Vronique as it is partly in Polish, partly in French, featur es both Polish and French actors. Weronika Wladyslaw Kowalski who also acted in Decalogue 10 and numerous other Polish films prior to Vronique Claude Duneton, who w ould be seen later in Bleu plays the father of Vronique. And in the lead role of Weronika/Vronique, Kie a French Swiss actress. He had noticed her in the very small role of Mademoiselle Davenne the piano Au revoir les enfants (1987) and her performance made a big impression o n him. And although she studied Polish in order to play Weronika, her lines were eventually dubbed by a Polish actress. La Double Vie de Vronique provides another important connec tion between France and Poland this time from a fiscal perspective. might call e with European funds, financially supported by France ( Canal + ) with contributions from K Tor and the Norwegian Norsk Film Vronique was distributed by Sidral Films in France and Miramax in the United States. S tatistics on Vronique particularly those relating to budget and earn ings are not easy to find and commercial reception: complain at the wa y the [Polish] critics received Vronique although even when they


12 resentment critics generally received Vronique and quite the opposite as far as the public is conc contrary Vronique just managed to rise ab ove a certain mediocrity. ( Stok 189 90) Certain things were clearly expected of see Poland and its current political situation in a film directed by what they still considered a earli er films were read by critics as political, he never considered them as such (Falkowska 136). 1 from his earlier work as many in Polish reviews of Vronique one can ascertain that the film was quite well received overall. And although he Vronique that secured the necessary French financial support to film the Trois Couleurs trilogy. The film was nominated for the at the Festival de Cannes and although it lost to Joel Barton Fink it did win the prix FIPRESCI as well as the Prix du Jury Irne Jacob took home L e Prix d'interprtation fminine at Cannes and was also nominated for the Csar for meilleure act rice for her portrayal of Weronika and Vronique. producer (188). Vronique was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Independent Spirit Award. 1 ).


13 of Poland that led otherwise) since the 1960s when he witnessed a profound political change that affected his work and Polish cinema as a whole. communism to democracy in 1989 As a result, the film industry saw a change of its own from is now on of cinema theatres decreased rapidly; another alarming figure was the extremely l ow average number of cinema visits per inhabitant one hundred thousand viewers per year in cinema 9). Poland was able to produce about 20 films annually, but the market was nonetheless dominated by A merican imports; as much as 73% of films released in Poland in 1992 were American. for the co production, distribution and exhibition of Europea tof 110). And with the success of his Decalogue partnership with French production companies for his next films. In 1991 when he was s much


14 It is i nteresting to look at the title of the film for its release in Poland, France, and America. In Poland, and therefore in Polish, the title is ; clearly, the Polish form of the name is used. In France, one reads La Double Vie de Vronique ; here, the French version of the name is favored. And in North America, the film was released as The Double Life of Veronique ; a gain, using the French version of the name (sans accent). In both Poland and France, the name in the title was most likely chosen for practical reasons, but it i s also possible that a Polish viewer would identify more with the Polish Weronika than with he r French counterpart and vice versa. As for the choice of Veronique for the English title? This is probably representative of the fact that in many ways American culture and the English language are more closely related to those of Western Europe than thos e of Eastern Europe. Regardless, How can one categorize Kr Poland, worked in Poland, and made films about Poland? What of his films co produced and no women who are mirror images of one another, but who nonetheless have separate identities, one Polish, one French. Many critics have even gone so far as to describe We ronika and Vronique personal; a sort of death for his Polish identity in o


15 even though much of the film takes place in France and that he continued to work there while filming his Trois Couleurs his homeland, he said: ink of ld where which thy return. back. I come to Paris. But I come back to Poland. (Stok 1 2) country home in Clermont recalls that during the screening of Vronique at the New York Film Festival, he was struck by the realization that the American audience was expected Europe an audiences to deduct that Vronique ha d And, even if they were sure,


16 2 a second Vronique comprised of four additional shots in which there is no doubt that Vronique has returned home and into the arms of her father. the opposite is often true. The source of confusion might lie instead in the ambiguity (which is often avoided in American cinema) of the original ending, rather than being unfamiliar with the concept of returning to the family home. And even with the inclusion of this new ending, the viewer is still left unsure of what exactly La Double Vie de Vr onique shows her hugging her father outdoors through a window both on screen right and 5). This double image is, of course, quite fitting considering the duality that the film has cre ated. Vronique, including one where she goes to Krakw and sees a third version of herself. Each of the slightly different endings would play in one of the seventeen Paris theaters at which the film would be shown. Even though enough footage was shot to make this project viable, it was ultimately abandoned because of a lack of money and perhaps more importantly, of time (Stok 188). An essential element of Vr onique 2


17 translat e it from a vague literary idea to an actual composition that would actually add another dimension to the film. This translator came in the form of Zbigniew Preisner with whom The End very much interested in the fact that he could ture alone or in the music alone. Combining the two, a certain meaning, a certain value, something which also determines a certain atmosphere, suddenly begins to exist. (179) etween Weronika and Vronique. It is possible that neither woman has the same meaning without the other and that it is only when they are considered together that one perceives the intended effect created by their co existence. The sense of the uncanny i n the film hinges on the representation of both characters; each of them might be interesting in her own respect but the great mystery comes when we are forced to wonder how two identical women with the same name, but not always explicitly aware of sung in the film. These words, which come specifically from the first nine lines of the second canto of Paradiso do no t necessar ily have anything to do with the subject of the film, but they were nonetheless inspiring for Preisner and influenced the final composition. The text is sung in


18 c Stok 179). So it i s clear that the film was lucrative on several fronts, but also in order to enjoy or feel moved by the music. Many cri not cite the poetry itself. The lines used as lyrics are: O voi che siete in piccioletta barca O Ye, who in some pretty little boat, desiderosi d'ascoltar, seguiti Eager to listen, have been following dietro al mio legno che cantando varca, Behind my ship, that singing sails along, tornate a riveder li vostri liti: Turn back to look again upon your shores; non vi mettete in pelago, ch forse, Do not put out to sea, lest peradventure, perdendo me, rimarreste smarriti In losing me, you might yourselves be lost. L'acqua ch'io prendo gi mai non si corse; The sea I sail has never yet been passed; Minerva spira, e conducemi Appollo, Minerva breathes, and pilots me Apollo, e nove Muse mi dimostran l'Orse. And Muses nine point out to me the Bears. In Paradiso Dante ascends to and is guided through the nine celestial spheres of heaven. It is interesting that Weronika dies singing about an imagining of the afterlife and that her collapse is followed by a shot that Ki evokes much of the feeling of Vronique The film is spiritual in the sense that i t alludes to a between Weronika and Vronique, considering the fact that even though they briefly cross paths, they never actually meet. Yet one can still se nse the presence of the other. And in fact, despite out to sea, lest peradventure, i n lo it can be read as a warning from Weronika to Vronique that her own death might by chance portend that of Vronique. Vronique hears this warning, whether aware of it or not, a nd decides not to continue her singing career, thus choosing life over her passion for music. Although


19 quality of Vronique ligious interpretation, because I think that the beauty of this film lies in its ambiguity, in its mystery and in the endless interpretations one can make, but when one tries too hard to make a connection between the film and religion, one neglects other p ossibilities. What i religious beliefs, or lack thereof (he considered himself an agnostic), one realizes that religion can not easily explain the film. Although he goes on to draw a connection between the opening Kickasola begins his reflection on Vronique spirituality, metaphysical suggestions, and superstition, so mu ch so that we might say it lacks of the film.


20 CHAPTER 2 VERONIQUE AND THE UNCANNY Because much of the experience of La Double Vie de Vronique hinges on the mystery of two identical, but unacquainted women, and the strange sentiments that arise from this co model for a reading of this film. Alt hough he considered it a rare occurrence Freud felt in his own words, impelled to engage in to the realm of the frightening of what evokes fear and dread The fact that he insistence on the film as f fate and unseen forces influencing our lives. Although the film may not be limited to these ideas, they certainly play an important role in the experience of watching the film. And a s I have attempted to ground in theory a film at times more about expe riences and emotions than ideas, Freud used psychoanalysis to try to explain a concept that by its very nature resists explanation. Freud conducts his discussion of the uncanny in conjunction with literature, but one must ask the question of whether or no t his theory of the uncanny can also be applied to cinema. Susan E. Linville does so successfully in her work and thro concept of t he Uncanny, I use her work here as a legitimization of my own research and of what I hope to accomplish in this analysis. Freud begins his essay with a discussion of works previously published on the Uncanny. In the medico psychological literature I know only one study on the subject, that


21 work and evaluates it but implies that his own study will go much further into t he realm of the the Uncanny remains the more important of the two. Jentsch stresses as one of the difficulties attendant upon the study of the uncanny, the fact that people differ greatly in their and admits his own insensitivity to the sensation, at once distancing himself from it and implicating himself in the discussion of it (124) Before any serious investigation into the Uncanny can be conducted, Freud provides the requisite attempt at an explanation of what is largely unexplainable. He states that thus two courses open to us: either we can investigate the semantic content that has accrued to the German word unheimlich impressions, experiences and situations, that evokes in us a sense of the Uncanny, and then go on to infer its hidden nature from what all these have in common (124). And although he prescribes two paths each, he explains, will lead to the same conclusion, that that species of the frightening that goes back to what was once well known and had long been He clarifies that: bvious that something should be frightening precisely because it is unknown and unfamiliar. But of course the converse is not true: not everything new e added to the novel and the unfamiliar if it is to become Part of understanding the Uncanny (the Unhe i mliche ) lies in the understanding of its opposite the Heimliche Freud proceeds to reproduce in its entirety the entry heimlich Worterbuch der Deutschen Sprache which includes Heimlich the other, what is concealed and kept out of Unheimlich


22 heimlich recorded for the word heimlich there is one in which it merges with its formal antonym, unheimlich, so that what is called heimlich becomes unheimlich Once there is a basic understanding of what the Unheimliche means, it becomes necessary to find and exa mine cases in real life to which this word and its connotations can be c h who is connection he refers to the impressions made on us by waxwork figures, ingeniously argum ents, we will take them as a starting po int for our own investigation. (135) Again drawing on Jentsch Freud explains that we have particularly favourable conditions for generating feelings of the uncanny if intellectual uncertainty is aroused as to whether something is animate or inanimate, and whether the lifeless bears an excessive likeness 1) Dolls, and more specifically, marionettes come into play in Vron ique At the school where Vronique teaches music, there is one day an assembly during which a puppeteer performs for the children. strings, so to speak, to m anipulate her as he would one of his marionettes And later, he will present to Vronique a new marionette who bears an eerie resemblance to her, and who, it turns out has a double of her own, an alternate or back up for the original. Vronique is understa ndably shaken by her introduction to these dolls, firstly because she is faced with


23 another double of herself, secondly because she is confronted with the inexplicable existence of her own double, and thirdly because she finally recognizes Alexandre as (at the very l east the symbol of) the poten tially sinister puppeteer of her own life. The idea of the double is uncanny in itself, as will be discussed later, but it is made all the more unnerving by the doubling of a doubling, compounding the effects of an a lready mysterious happening. From the discussion of dolls and their questionable status as inanimate, Freud moves to The Sand to speak more generally about the necessary conditions for the Uncanny to arise kind of uncertainty by preventing us certainly not unintentionally from guessing whether he is going to take us into the real world or into some fantastic world of his own choosing The u ncertainty forms the basis for the existence of the Uncanny, which Freud explains in saying, blurred, when we are faced with the reality of something that we have until now c onsidered imaginary We learn that it is this gray area which becomes the breeding ground for that which is uncanny. Freud also makes the point that its validity on its contents being exempt from the realit y test. The apparently paradoxical upshot of this is that many things that would be uncanny if they occurred in real life are not uncanny in literature, and that in literature there are many opportunities to achieve uncanny effec ts that are absent in real life 6) Here he points to the special way by which literature can create a profound sense of the Uncanny and as consequen ce cinema as well. Freud also emphasizes the choice that the writer makes in each case, stating that, s that the creative writer can allow himself is that of choosing whether to present a world that conforms


24 reality or one that in some way deviates from it. We accept his choice in every case Thus we must first ask ourse writer and director, and thus, creator of the world in which Weronika and Vronique co exist. to allow f strange, or uncanny, occurrence in a world that is otherwise grounded in reality. Because the events of the film arouse a sense of the uncanny in the viewer, one could immed iately conclude for the uncanny to be produced. This presupposition would actually be quite logical in can also turn to more concrete evidence in order to further investigate the effects of the uncanny. In the interview which became the book ab He introduces this idea by first referring to some negative points of the film and its structure and how what one might consider a The French part is, I have time to cut it down. There are flaws in the script, too, which were bound to emerge in the finished film especially in the French part. There are a lot of mistakes like that. For d, a very broad plot in the script. It seemed quite well constructed and we thought it would be a


25 good driving force after all, and that it should be cut out. I thr ew it out of the film completely but then it turned out that the heroine no longer had her feet planted on the ground, she was always somewhere a few inches up in the air. Only the soul existed for her, only premonitions, only a certain magic. I simply had to reinsert that divorce plot so as to pull Vronique down to earth, to have her agree, for example, to appear in court, bear false witness against someone and in this way become a normal human being again. ompletely artificial thread in the film. But at least for a moment you feel that Vronique could be your friend, she could be your Stok 186) decision to securely ground Vr oniq u e in the so called real world in spite of the somewhat supernatural events that will come to surround her life. Secondly, we see that Vronique is intended to be (at least comparable to) a real person. She is not a mythical creature, nor a fairy tale heroine. She is a woman who has a real and seemingly normal life and, particularly since she is unaware of the connection, is not defined by the fact that she has a double in the world. She agrees to testify in a divorce trial on behalf of her friend Catherine deliberately agreeing to lie for her. Choosing to lie is not irrefutable evidence of the plausibility of a character but it does show that Vronique is not a freak of nature, a mere walking reflection; she has friends and flaws and in this way remain s at least somewhat realistically grounded. It is not by chance that I evoke the fairy tale. This literary genre plays an important role 3 He uses the fairy tale as a contrast to other forms of fiction that 3 It was not unco mmon for Freud to use literature ( and mythology ) as comparative material, drawing from for example, Sopho Oedipus Rex for his theories on psychosexual development specifically the Oedipus complex.


26 produce effects of the Uncanny. He fairy tale abandons the basis of reality right from the start and openly commits itself to the acceptance of animisti and is therefore unsuitable to produce uncanny effects (156). In contrast, if a writer of fiction has conditions that apply to the emergence of the uncanny in norm al experience; whatever has an uncanny effect in real life has the same in literature. But the writer can intensify and multiply this effect far bey o nd what is feasible in normal experience; in his stories he can make things happen that one would never, or only rarely, experience in real life. In a by promising us everyday re ality and then going beyond it. (156 7) By looking at other genre s of fiction as being in opposition to the unique case of the fairy tale we can further make the argument for its basis in reality; that is to say, because Vronique does not live in a fantastical world where m agical events are commonplace, we can further cement her existence in a plausible reality comparable to our own. And the more we are able to concretely situate her world in reality, the more easily we can argue for the legitimacy of the uncanny effects cre ated by the strange occurrences in this world. the Uncanny to arise; he presents a conceivable and believable world and then introduces a strange and inexplicable circumstance, first establishing the necessary conditions for the Uncanny to be experienced and then using this to create such an effect. As mentioned above, a nother key source of the Uncanny comes in the form of the double, or Doppelgnger, which is eerily appropriate for t he film in question. Commenting on E.T.A.


27 Hoffmann Freud explains the idea of doubles and their relationships to one another. In general, the term Doppelgnger refers to any two people who look alike and But two such people are connected by more than shared physical features ; the Doppelg nger myth also posits that a certain more psychic bond may exist between doubles linking their personal experiences and emotions through telepathy, conscious or otherwise. La Double Vie de Vronique presents us with a clear and undeniable case of the double, which can be inte rpre ted, at least in part, with the concept of the Doppelgnger. Weronika sees her double, her Doppelgnger, in Krakow and dies soon after, which follows the tradition that Even more strangely, Weron seems to somehow alert Vronique to her own possible fate should she continue to pursue upon seeing a previously unnoticed contact print of a woman who looks exa ctly like her but is most certainly someone other than herself. N onetheless V ronique death, though she does not necessarily know the source of this sentiment. Her sudden decision to stop singing seems to come exclusively from an unspoken and inexplicable warning, perhaps from Weronika herself. Just as twins are often said to share the thoughts and feelings of one another even when far a part, Vronique receives something from Weronika, though we cannot ever be sure exactly what this is ; when her lover asks Tu es triste? she e ne sais pas pourquoi comme si Freud explores the idea of the double e ven further: The double was or iginally an insurance against the extinction of the self or, as Rank puts t


28 was the first double of the body. The invention of such doubling as a defence against a nnihilation has a counterpart in the language of dreams, which is fond of expressing the idea of castration by duplicating or multiplying the genital symbol But these ideas arose on the soil of boundless self love, the p r imordial narcissism that dominates the mental life of both the child and primitive man, and when this phase is surmounted, the meaning en an assurance of immortality, it becomes the primitive narcissism: it may acquire a new content from later stages in the evolution of the ego. (142) ter with her double follows the more modern interpretation, by which her Vronique, on the other hand, profits from the existence of her double, even if she is not im opportunity to change her fate, even if she does not realize the tru e reason for her decision. The double also elicits a feeling of the Uncanny because it is a repetition, which can also create such a feeling In another set of experiences we have no difficulty in recognizing that it is only the factor of unintended repe tition that transforms what would otherwise seem quite harmless into something uncanny and forces us to entertain the idea of the fateful and the inescapable, when we w Although Freud is no longer referring to the idea of the Doppelgnger, we can still make a connection between the two concepts. Both Vronique and Weronika are non threatening, harmless even, individually, but their co existence is what unnerves the viewer, what creates a certain disquieting sensatio n. This genre of repetition


29 belongs to the realm of a r eoccu rre nce of a number for example or the experience of thinking of a certain person moments before he or she calls. Maybe coincidences, maybe more, such instances still arouse something in us and a gain, relate back to the theme s of fate or chance which are both important elements in Death, because it has and still does remain quite mysterious to us, becomes a component of the Uncanny equation. Freud reminds us that ous is still as unreceptive as ever t becomes the enemy of the survivor intent upon carrying him off with him to share his new existence 8 9) affect the possibility of the occurrence of the Uncanny: invented a world that, while less fantastic than that of the fairy tale, differ s from the real world in that it involves supernatural entities such as demons or spirits of the dead. Within the limits set by the presuppositions of this literary reality, su ch figures forfeit any uncanny quality that might otherwise attach to them (149). either demons although Alexandre the puppeteer becomes something of a sinister figure toward the end of the film no r direct mention of spirits, but the film, as a visual medium, does offer one instance where we must at l east consider the existence of the spiritual world and its connection to our reality. This the omniscient eye of the camera offers a different glimpse of the scene. conductor, and the audience through her eyes. But we are also able to look at her directly,


30 re cognizing the onset of visible signs of the toll that singing is taking on her body. Looking at her, we see the first sugge stion of her imminent collapse and we then return immediately to her point of view. The camera wavers, showing the audience, the cond uctor, and the ceiling in a confused and unstable shot until finally we see the wooden planks of the stage and hear the thud moments until a disorienting shot which mo ves closely over the heads of the members of the audience, suggesting flight. Suddenly, we seem to be at the back of the auditorium, observing to the stage with a close man calmly states in Polish. Another second or two of his grip on her wrist and the next thing we see is earth and darkness. The camera moves and some light enters the shot. We see people gathered around, looking down on us and realize that our impossible perspective is that of Weronika in her grave. The mourners begin to drop handfuls of dirt onto the coffin, gradually obscuring our already impossible view. Eventually there is o nly darkness and the sound of more dirt raining down. We cannot be sure exactly what has transpired, whether we have witnessed merely one interpretation of the scene; we have no evidence but the suggestion of the p resence of Therefore, I contend that this strange and inexplicable instance made all the more uncanny by its occurrence in a predominantly realisti c world. Leading to the conclusion of his theoretical essay, Freud heads back in the direction of psychoanalytic theory. He asserts that the Uncanny arises from that which is frightening because it was once repressed, but has come back to the surface:


31 impulse of whatever kind is converted into fear by being repressed, if follows that among those things that are felt to be frightening there must be one group in which it can be shown that the frightening element is something that has been repressed and now returns. This species of the frightening would then constitute the uncanny, and it would be immaterial whether it was itself frightening o r arose from another affect. (148) This can relate back to the primitive and narcissistic creation of the double, but is more appropriate to the film in a different sense, which Freud explains in saying: why German usage allows the familiar ( das Heimliche ( das Unheimliche t is actually nothing new or strange but something that was long familiar to the psyche and was estranged from it only of the u n e the uncanny which permits us to make the connection between repression and the case of Weronika and Vronique. I do not intend to imply that the two women knew about one another, but repressed this knowledge, only to be confronted with it later in their l ives. What I mean is that the uncanny effect which is felt by the viewer is also Just as the double creates a sense of the Uncanny where there might not otherwise be one, the exposure of the existence of Weronika to Vronique, and vice versa, awakens a cognizance of what is uncanny that might otherwise never have been experienced.


32 nsider Hlne Cixous reading of The Uncanny Das Unheimliche in order to effect a slight shift in perspective. Cixous exploits t he relationship between the Heimliche reproduction of entries from reference works. She writes: Liebe ist Heimweh : Love is a yearning for a country, according to popular wisdom. Heimweh : a yearning for a country But this yearning is also the yearning which renders the country for you a point of destiny. Which country? The one from which we come, t from which we come i s always the one to which we are returning. You are on the return road You have already passed through here: you recognize the landscape. You have always been on the return road. Why is it that the maternal landscape, the heimisch and the familiar become so disquieting? The answer is less buried than we might suspect. The obliteration of any separation, the realization of the desire which in itself obliterates a limit; all that which, in effecting the movement of life in reality, allows us to come closer t o a goal, the short cuts, the crossing accomplished especially at the end of our lives; all that which overcomes, shortens, economizes, and assure s satisfaction appears to affirm the life forces. All of that has another face turned toward death which is th e detour of life. The abbreviating effect which affi rms life asserts death. (544 5) Her discussion of the Uncanny leads to a reflection on origins and returns. Surprisingly, this me and the


33 Uncanny. Even the familiar path towards home can be a source of disquietude when we see its unfamiliar face, when the boundary between these two sides becomes unclear or disappears altogether. What was once familiar somehow becomes unfamiliar and therefore becomes a source of anxiety. Vronique is not the sa been exposed to strange and sometimes sinister events and is no longer unaware of the possibility of unseen forces having a hand in her fate. She cannot unsee the photograph of her other self, nor can she pretend she has not been manipulated by Alexandre. She returns home, but cannot escape the idea of her own mortality. Unheimliche as a form of which one branch points in the direction of the uncanny and the other in the direction of an anxiety, one sees, at the extreme end of the uncanny, fiction pointing (547). She links the uncanny to the unknown and thus ties it to the idea of death, because what awaits us after death, if anything, remains the great unknown of our existence. brush with death, so to speak, becomes one of the greatest sources of her own anxiety. Cixous next enters into her own discussion double of the Unheimliche is a secretion of death, an anticipation of nonrepresentation, a doll, a hybrid body composed of language and silence that in the m ovement which turns it and which it turns, invents And earlier in her discourse, she explains that feeds on the offspring cast off by the self through critical solicitation, an incorporation whose phanta sm gives rise, in its turn, to the metaphor of a disquieting consummation: the double thus also absorbs the unrealized eventualities of our destiny which the imagination refuses to let go. If this self is considered from a


34 theoretical point of view and pre sented descriptively it leads back to all that is lodged e reading, the ghostly figure of nonfulfillment and repression, and not the double as counterpart or reflection, but rather the dol l that is neither dead nor alive. (539 40) outcomes of her lif e. After her death, she can only belong to the realm of the imaginary and can In this scenario, we must adhere to the time line presented by the film and cease to consider their lives as simultaneous parallel and reflecting.


35 CHAPTER 3 THROUGH THE L OOKING GLASS AND WHAT VERONIQUE FOUND THERE The repeated image (or suggestion) of the mirror cannot be neglected in a reading of La Double Vie de Vronique fairly clear distinction be tween the lives of Weronika and Vronique, respectively. That is not to say that the life of one does not affect that of the other; clearly, the opposite is true. At several points throughout the film, the two lives bleed into one another. When Vronique f eels a sudden and inexplicable sense of loss following the death of Weronika, the way in which the two women to end her singing career, based solely on a mysterio us feeling, serves as further proof of the connection between her and her counterpart. When each of the women is faced with visual evidence of the other, the threads connecting their uncanny co existence are reinforced; for example, when Weronika sees Vro niqu e boarding a tour bus in Krakow or when Vronique, aided by Alexandre, finally sees the photo negative she unknowingly took of Weronika, the the film in a way that allows both women to have their own lives, however briefly. In this way, created by the metaphorical mirror between them; that is to say, the c lear structural division of the film permits the comparison between the first and second sections and, thus, establishes the Through the Looking Glass This connection does not go unnoticed by critics; Jonathan Romney, for example, borrows this title for his brief reflection on Vronique and goes on to d iscuss Through the Looking Gl ass and What Alice Found There a


36 continuation of from her own world to that of Wonderland this time through the medium of a mirror instead of a rabbit hole She belongs on one sid e of the looking glass, but is able to traverse this boundary in a comparable trajectory. She lives in France, but finds herself in Poland as a tourist, effect ively entering into the life of her double, of her reflection. Here one can argue that it is Vronique who privileged over that of Weronika; she lives while Weronika die s and even profits from her death, subconsciously taking it as a warning of her own. Her precedence over Weronika is also thirds of the running s only one third. This leads to the question of whether this uneven division also favors France over Poland if the two women represent their respective countries. However, if one takes into account the doppelgnger myth, the opposite scenario would be more appropriate; Weronika sees her double and this is the event that acts as the harbinger of her death, which will occur not long afterward. Along with the structural division of the film, which can be seen as the locus of the mirror, there is also a moment in the film which Vronique. In a lively square somewhere in Krakow, Poland, Weronika stops suddenly and stares ahead. We see a group of tourists gathered outsid e of a bus, but still cannot be sure what about onto the bus, hurriedly snapping photos with her camera. She finds her seat but continues to take


37 which is marked with a strange expression lying somewhere between perplexit y and amused complicity. Vronique continues to take pictures b u t never becomes aware of Weronika. From a perspective inside the bus, but perhaps not directly that of Vronique, we see Weronika again, seeming to wait for an explanation or some form of reco gnition on the part of her double. We learn later that Vronique has inadvertently captured Weronika on film, but at the moment when women are essen tially separated by four mirror objects. Firstly, there is the camera lens, through which the scene is filmed. The two women are never shown in the same shot. The eye of the director moves back and forth between them, but never captures them together. Seco ndly, there are the actual eyes of Weronika and Vronique. Weronika sees Vronique, but cannot necessarily believe what her own vision has shown her. And Vronique remains ob l ivious, her amera, which is the only thing that sees Weronika and later offers the only evidence of her existence. Lastly, we must consider the window of the tour bus. Weronika, for the most part, sees Vronique through this glass, creating the possibility in her mind that what she sees is really her own reflection. The camera lens as a marked separation. Discussion of mirrors and mirror like objects leads us to a nother important theoretical framework through which we can examine La Double Vie de Vronique This theory comes from Gilles Deleuze and his concept of the crystal image, of the actual and the virtual, in cinema. About the image, he says :


38 say that the actual image itself has a virtual image which corresponds to it like a double or a reflection. In Bergsonian terms, the real object is reflected in a mirror image as in the virtual object which, from its side and simultaneously, envelops or r with two sides, actual and virt ual. It is as if an image in a mirror, photo or postcard came to life, assumed independence and passed into the actual, even if this m eant that the actual image returned into the mirror and resumed its place in the postcard or photo, following a double movement of liberation and capture. (66 7) Emma Wilson explores more profoundly credits Vinc But a window onto the world, on cinematic representation itself and its capacity to visualize duration, memory and psychic states. This leads him not to reveal a truth about the world, but rather to dissect the ways in whi ch cinematic misrepresentations and distortions can be aligned with mental and psych ic misperceptions and delusions. (7) devices: flashbacks, fades, slow motion and so on, which clearly signal the distinction between the actual and the virtual. Modern cinema renders these divisions and distinctions increasingly represent Wilson points out that in his work on cinema,


39 re that she briefly, and superficially sees as a gap in Deleuze cinematic theories. Wilson returns to her reflection on the crystal image in La Double Vie de Vro nique most specifically about the image viewed through glass, the image reflected in glass, in more definitively correlation of images shot th rough glass and images reflected in glass, he would seem to associate the virtual and the actual, and to remind us that the cinematic image itself, where a view is focused through a lens, necessarily involves an act of mediated vision and consequent dereal ization. is in his fascination with the very reflexive material, the substances in his films glass, water, plastic, crystal through which images are seen and in which images are reflected. (13 ) As Deleuze not only as a way to discuss the relationship between Weronika and Vronique in the film, but also as a way to look at the act of filmmaking itself. Wilso spectator in relationship to the concept of the crystal or virtual, spectator ma y actualize in her viewing experience the series of mergers and moves between real and imaginary, past and present, dream and fantasy, that the film may reflect in its


40 structure and surface images, there can be no guarantee that any specific spectator will accept the (10) She then highlights the risk that arises when the has specifically been the fate of La Double Vie de Vronique where viewers attempt to (10) Although her assessment seems to disparage the film, I do not believe this was her intention. I think that Wilson was simply trying to express the difficulty t hat arises in searching for concrete explanations in a film that does not allow them easily, if it all. I t was precisely this genre of risk that was discussed in the introduction where I attempted to ou tline the difficulties inherent to the analysis of a film which consist e ntly provides more questions than answers. In looking at the parts that make up the film, however, we are able to avoid some of the dangers that would accompany an overarching analys is, fitting certain pieces into a framework without trying to necessarily understand the film as a whole. It is the image of the mirror and its connotations that creates a special lens through which uppet show through a mirror, effectively watching the reflection of an event that is already a reflection of her own reality. She will later watch through a glass door as Alexandre searches for her, hiding behind it but also gazing through it. Vronique at one point dreams a scene in which she is on a train, which is seemingly, points out, since Vronique also travels to Krakow, she could be revisioning her own memory of the trip and not necessarily receiving that of Weronika. In any case, this scene which is, however out of the train window wer that the glass of the train window is


41 glass or crystal ball from her bag and holds it up to the window so that we see the view now reflected and inverted thr the image on the screen takes on properties of a mirrored reflection in a Flemish painting 4 (14). Like the camera lens, the glass of the window can be looked through or reflect an ima ge, literally and figuratively. Although we are seemingly confronted with a plausible fictional reality, we realize that the camera can distort what is presented to us, so that we can never get an unfiltered vi ew of this reality. La Double Vie de Vronique the indiscernability of the virtual and the actual appea rs to provoke a loss of meaning, and a loss of stable relation to reality, losses which are themselves significant. This can be explored most effectively in relation to the thematics of doubling and uncanny ressemblance which the film takes in its title an d places at its centre mirrors in doubling when she describes Weronika as not alone, but shadowed by her reflection in photographs, in glass doors in it becomes evident, as the narrative unfolds, that she has her own living double. In this sense, the double life of Weronika is, in the first place, a visual illusion, a shadowing of the supposedly actual by the virtual, and an insistent reminder that we as viewers are sharing 4 Wilson n and a red church with a fine spire and buildings around which she says is or works of which she is reminded, she m ay be referring to, for example, the finel y detailed churches found in the background of The Adoration of the Lamb


42 Both Weronika and Vronique find reflections of themselves in their individual lives before ever becoming aware of the existence of a real double somewhere in the world. Just as Weronika is constantly doubled in reflective surfaces, Vronique, too, comes face to face with a visual representation of herself, specifically in the form of the marionnette(s) that Alexandre has modeled after her. And, of course, if we are permit ted to step back further, we can look at the lives of these women as reflections of one another, where either one is the reflection of the other or both exist independently, but are perpetually separated literally and figuratively by a piece of glass. Kie La Double Vie de Vronique much like emotions themselves, the film does not necessarily offer any explanations, only something to be experienced. Nonetheless, there i s a certain drive to perhaps spurred by a desire to prove false Kie seemingly modest view of his own film. that would be interesting to explore, leading, one would imagine, to an incorporation of the mirror stage as well in furthe r discussion of Vronique and its use of doubles and mirrors. Although much has been said about La Double Vie de Vronique it sometimes seems that this film is neglected in favor of the Trois Couleurs trilogy, that it is seen merely as a bridge between Ki Vronique is a beautiful, engaging, haunting film that deserves to be studied on its own, as well as in conjunction with Bleu Blanc and Rouge I can only hope that others will be introduced to this film and feel co mpelled, as I was, to say something about it.


43 ationality stemming from the Vronique and although it is not e asy to analyze a fil m that at times resists full comprehension by its audience, we can and must do the film justice by finding ways to explore it even if we never fully answer our own questions. This line of thinking can be expanded beyond fi lms to encompass cinema as a whole urging not only film students but anyone who views a film to look beyond what they see, to begin or continue to regard film as more than entertainment, instead considering cinema as an artistic medium that not only delig hts the senses but also reflects reality, revealing truths about our world and ourselves


44 LIST OF REFERENCES Cixous, Hlne. Unheimliche (The New Literary History 7.3 ( 1976 ) : 528 548. Deleuze, Gilles. Cin ema 2 London: Continuum International Publishing Group 2005. Double Life of Vronique, The. Dir. Krzysztof Kie Claude Duneton, Wladyslaw Kowalski 1991. DVD. The C riterion Collection, 2006. The Double Life of Vronique et Three Colours : an escape from Ed. Paul Coates. England: Flicks Books 1999. 136 157. Feldstein, Richard. Reading Seminars I and II: Lacan's Return to Freud: Seminar I, Freud's Papers On Technique, Seminar II, The Ego in Freud's Theory and in the Technique of Psychoanalysis New York: Albany State University of New York Press 199 6. Freud, Sigmund. The Uncanny New York: Penguin Books 2003. Haltof, Marek. Chance London: Wallflower Press 2004 Insdorf, Annette. Double Lives, Second Chances Ne w York: Talk Miramax Books 1999. Kickasola, Joseph G. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group In c 2004. Linville, Susan E. Texas: University of Texas Press 2004. The Double Life of Vronique DVD Booklet. The Criterion Collection, 2006. London: Faber and Faber, 1993. Wilson, Emma. Oxford: European Humanities Research Centre 2000.


45 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH St ephanie Elyse Kupfer was born in Mt. Kisco, New York. She lived in Mahopac, New York until the age of 12 when her family moved to Pembroke Pines, Florida where she graduated from Flanagan High School in 2003. She earned her B achelor of A rts in French with a minor in English from the University of Flor ida in 2007. In the Fall of 2 007, she began work on her M.A. in French and became a teaching assistant for the department, heading one section of Beginning her M aster of Arts program, Stephanie will teach English in Mulhouse, France for seven months as part of the as a translator and interpreter for the United States Government.