sat 13/04/2024

DVD: Ida | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Ida

DVD: Ida

A return to his Polish roots, Pawel Pawlikowski's latest is a bleak, sacred masterpiece

Pawel Pawlikowski took a leap into the unknown with Ida. The reasons for advance box office scepticism were clear: the film was black and white, made in an old-fashioned ratio, in Polish (until then the director had only worked in English), and more than bleak in subject. But the risks have more than paid off: as the highest grossing Polish-language film in the US ever, Ida has proved his most commercially successful work to date.

And critically, too, a category I suspect Pawlikowski is much more concerned with. It’s on the shortlist for next month’s European Film Awards in both best film and director category. The only extra on this DVD release is the trailer, which is a shame because the director is more than articulate when talking about his work (watch interview here). The film’s subject has been told in detail in the original review on theartsdesk.

The bleakness is so painful, the images so true and beautiful

Ida is the director’s first film in his native Poland – though he left that country at the age of 14, and has lived in the UK and elsewhere in Europe since. One of the challenges Pawlikowski faced was to get right the look and aesthetic style of an era, the early 1960s, that he remembered. He's succeeded triumphantly, inviting comparisons with masters of the time (particularly interesting to match the feel of the jazz scenes in Ida with those of Andrzej Wajda’s 1960 Innocent Sorcerers).

The much-acclaimed monochrome cinematography wasn’t achieved easily, apparently: according to the director, his original DoP left the project on the first day, and the rest of the film ended up being shot by the camera operator. In which case, given the luminous sense of light and marvels of composition (particularly in giving style to flat landscapes) here, a new talent has definitely emerged in Lukasz Zal.

Pawlikowski has spoken of his interest in contradictions, in paradox, and that sense is strong in the film: the ascetic and the worldy, the sacred and the secular. The story of the growing real contact between “a slut and a little saint”, Ida has a new rigour for the director, even if the wider motif of a dominant pair of central characters with a fluctuating emotional balance between them is one he's tackled before, not least in Last Resort.

The  two leads, the non-professional Agata Trzebuchowska as Ida, and Agata Kulesza as Wanda (pictured above, left, with Trzebuchowska), are simply superb (Kulesza is also up for Best Actress at the European Film Awards). Just contrast their facial expressions: the quiet devotion of the novice gradually waking up to the world outside, her features illuminating; and the opposite with Wanda, her face growing colder and deader as the film goes on. The bleakness is so painful, the images so true and beautiful. 

Pawlikowski has spoken of his interest in contradictions, in paradox, and that sense is strong in the film


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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Goodness, that realliy is a sacred piece of cinema

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