Ida

Ida, London Film Festival 2013

 

DIR: Pawel Pawlikowski   WRI: Pawel Pawlikowski, Rebecca Lenkiewicz   PRO: Eric Abraham, Piotr Dzieciol, Ewa Puszczynska  • DOP: Ryszard Lenczewski, Lukasz Zal ED: Jaroslaw Kaminski  DES: Marcel Slawinski, Katarzyna Sobanska-Strzalkowska MUS: Kristian Eidnes Andersen  CAST: Agata Kulesza, Agata Trzebuchowska, Dawid Ogrodnik

In 1960s Poland, eighteen-year-old orphan Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) pursues a life of servitude knowing little of life beyond the walls of her convent and is mere days away from taking her vows and sealing her fate when she receives word from a long-lost aunt seeking council. She reveals that Anna is Ida, a Jew who was not abandoned or given up but taken from her parents during the Holocaust of the German occupation. The revelation triggers a search for truth casting her sheltered life upside down and her god-fearing faith into question.

Ida absorbs the information stoically and waits patiently for the bus that will take her back on the course chosen for her but her icy aunt, Wanda (Agata Kulesza), takes pity and decides for both of them to keep digging. The journey therein is an odd-couple affair, Ida initially silent and sheepish with Wanda increasingly tenacious and volatile in the hunt for answers. The latter, a judge and former state prosecutor scrutinises everyone, never taking no for an answer, a misanthrope who guzzles alcohol and engages in one-night stands to quell her own dogged agenda. Ida, however, never openly judges her hardboiled aunt’s lifestyle even as she scoffs at her saintly manner or pesters her about carnal impulses, taking every jeer on her delicately dimpled chin.

Veteran director Pawel Pawlikowski carries the weighty subject matter flawlessly and incorporates black and white in the oft-forgotten 4:3 format with finesse, complimenting the proceedings in painterly compositions brimming with pathos. The past haunts the present and its threads threaten to overwhelm both Ida and Wanda. Long, lingering takes seek to penetrate their steely exteriors, the only refuge often below the frame of view as they crumble half submerged from prying eyes.

Their destination is Ida’s old home where Wanda wastes no time grilling the current residents who’d appropriated it unlawfully during the war. She’s convinced they harboured Ida’s family in nearby woods for a time but they refuse to confess the grisly fate that befell them. Here the narrative takes an intriguing turn as they wait it out until the accusers are ready to concede any information they might hold. The hotel they’re staying in is holding festivities and Ida discovers jazz music, it takes a hold of her and she submits to its dizzying rhythm like a moth to a flame. Of course, it helps that the pied piper of sorts is a handsome saxophonist, who finds himself equally enchanted by Ida’s aura and so begins her opening up to new experiences like a flower blooming in the new day sun.

The highlight of these scenes is the manner in which Ida allows herself to experience them. The journey unearths a host of ghosts, God has not been kind to Ida since infancy and you get a sense that she’s taking back what’s been denied in concession. But it’s not that clear-cut, perhaps Anna is exorcising Ida, placating her newfound urges when she allows herself to glimpse the desirability she emanates. Her reasoning might remain a mystery but unlike her troubled aunt she’s always in control of her impulses so when the history of her parents is finally revealed we know it can only strengthen her resolve to overcome it.

It’s a rocky road-movie but there’s so much beauty to behold that you’d gladly take the 80-minute journey again for the emphatic story, the stirring performances and Pawlikowski’s awe-inspiring visuals. Combined, the drama transcends its momentous setting in what may prove to be the most important and affecting films of the year.

Anthony Assad

82 minutes

Ida is released 26th September 2014
Ida – Official Website

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Interview: Dawid Ogrodnik

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Anna Pospieszynska met with Polish actor Dawid Ogrodnik, who stars in Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida and the inspiring Life Feels Good by Maciej Pieprzyca, both of which are screening as part of the 12th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

Irish audiences will have a chance to dive into two beautifully crafted stories, which are great examples of the “journey” cinema, so intensely focused on self-discovery and pursuit of a character’s own identity. So lets start from the beginning and your journey into acting.

My road has led me to confrontation with myself and defining what I want and how I can get there. I realised I had to stake everything on one card to reach my goals. Undoubtedly, it was a very difficult decision to make, particularly if you are 12 years old. Nevertheless, there was that nagging feeling of something awaiting me and I did need to see it. So I sold everything I owned and left thome to realize my dreams. There was definitely a lot of luck involved as I met many really good people on my journey, first in music and then at acting school. As a result of my decisions, I am here. The funny thing is that even now my intuition tells me there is more for me to discover so I needed to keep moving ahead.

Every journey might make you weary. Could you count on an emotional boost to push you forward?

I think each project I got involved in drove me significantly forward. Definitely one of the first key people I met was the director Leszek Dawid with whom I worked  on I am the God (Jestem Bogiem). Thanks to him I learned to be honest with the camera and that to pretend emotions is your worst enemy.  You have to really feel it regardless of how many times you have played it. Never try to ‘rewind’ feelings, as you would lose your realness.  Life Feels Good, with Maciej Pieprzyca, was the biggest challenge of my life and taught me a lot about humility and helped me see an actor’s work from a different perspective. Suddenly you dedicate your whole life to one project and it becomes your objective.

You have been presented as an actor who fishes for roles of the outsider, which places you in the great company of Dustin Hoffman, Johnny Depp or Christian Bale. At the same time it requires a lot of effort, time and energy. What makes them so appealing?

It is both challenging and inspirational. After some point you realize that the brain acts as an extremely absorbent sponge. It enables you to readjust and engage with a huge variety of elements and particulars, which brings you eventually to the stage of metamorphosing into a character you are to play. And this is what fascinates me in this job. On the one hand it creates a comfort zone as you are creating a persona you have nothing in common with in real life. On the other, there is a danger of the pastiche and grotesque sneaking into your work if you do not do it right. It is a risk you need to take but you need to get ready and be responsible for all pros and cons that go with it.

Looking at your character in Ida, I see his symbolic weight that enriches the life of Anna, the female protagonist. Like metaphysical doors, she has to enter through them to continue her path to self-discovery and change. How did getting involved in this movie transform your life?

The script was one of the reasons why I decided to take part in it.  Then there was my love of the saxophone and music. As the movie takes place in the ’60s, it was a very special time for Jazz, especially on the Polish scene. The director, Pawel Pawlikowski, wanted the soundtrack to reflect the movie’s ambience, which just added extra value to the project. In regards to my character, there was nothing extreme about him. However, what mesmerized me was the inner world he shared with the Anna, expressed by gestures, tunes and a desire to find an understanding, kindred spirit.

Polish Cinema is showing a new face, highlighting its more universal line of storytelling. We can see it in freshly produced pictures, such as Life Feels Good, Imagine and Lasting’ As a young actor attending international film festivals, how would you describe the audience’s reactions to this change? And what else would you like to see?

It is a very interesting direction. You can see how well received our movies were in 2013 and how many festivals have already included them, e.g. Montreal, Berlin, or even now in Dublin. I believe it is just the beginning. We might lack a directing personality that is not afraid of pushing it forward and embracing all new elements and themes that this trend can offer but we are definitely getting there. Also in terms of acting, Polish Cinema is very much rooted in a script which can focus on following a word-by-word structure, which definitely keeps us different, and it is great. However, maybe there should be just a bit more space for improvisation. You can see in American films that many directors give actors more freedom. Of course you don’t want to have it overdone across many scenes as often happens in such movies, but it might give us an opportunity to react to some situations more organically. Plus, we shouldn’t be afraid of experimenting as well as introducing new topics. Film is a limitless form of art and shouldn’t be confined or restricted by social taboos or difficult subjects such as homosexuality or transsexuality. I hope one day our cinema will be full of amazing scripts that give us a breath of fresh air, directed by young minds behind the camera, ready to steer us to new cinematic waters.

Click here for further coverage from the 12th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

The 12th Jameson Dublin International Film Festival runs 13 – 23 February 2014,


 

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BFI London Film Festival: ‘The Double’ & ‘Ida’

 

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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

Matt Micucci

 

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