Matt Micucci continues his reports from the 56th BFI London Film Festival with a look at Richard Ayoade‘s The Double and Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida.
The Double – Richard Ayoade
Richard Ayoade’s follows up his widely acclaimed debut feature Submarine with another stylised film that deals with obsession, love rivalry and psychopathy. Based on Dostoevsky’s novella of the same name, this is the story of an irreparably shy and downtrodden young office clerk hopelessly in love with a colleague, Hannah, whom he is fixated upon but whose presence despairingly intimidates and mortifies him. His difficult life is made all the more difficult when a new worker who looks exactly like him but has a complete opposite and extrovert personality is hired and takes advantage of him in any way he can, by exploiting his office work to climb through the company ranks and even stealing the woman he loves.
The Double is remarkably overflowing with creativity and a visual style that recalls the classic film noir, or even the thriller dramas of the late mute period, but also flirts with the bizarreness of the science fiction works of Terry Gilliam, particularly in the creation of a mostly timeless American setting. The way it is composed and structured, whether it is in the mise en scene of each frame or in the narrative developments of the story itself, is fearlessly obvious yet its confidence and exciting pace makes it gripping and entertaining all throughout.
On top of that, it has a sweet and romantic inner core that ensures The Double’s irresistible charm, which completes the stylish nature of Ayoade’s direction. Jesse Eisenberg is perfectly cast in this film, and shows amazing versatility and skill in his portrayal of two characters who look and dress exactly the same but who are radically different in nature and purpose. In fact, it is obvious that without the strength of Eisenberg’s performance the film would have crumbled and lost credibility.
Ida by Pawel Pawlikowski
Anna, a young girl brought up in a convent, is just about to take her vows and become a nun. Before she does, her Mother Superior insists that she try to reconnect with her last remaining relative, her aunt Wanda, who an intellectual and strong woman. After some initial hostility, the two set off on a road trip looking for the place where Anna’s parents were executed and buried during the Second World War.
Pawlikowski’s latest work feels like a journey of a character’s self-discovery but also a journey through Poland’s historical conscience. Shot in glorious black and white photography, each frame is carefully composed and adds a poetic depth to the narrative and conveys the careful structure of the character development.
All the while, Kulesza and Trzebuchowska share wonderful chemistry in their moments of soft spoken melancholia and pathos with their performances of their respective characters, who have radically opposed personalities, that conveys Ida’s lack of emotional obviousness in favour of a more honest and touching approach.