Europe take 4 – Road to discovering Jewish roots in Poland

Ida – Paweł Pawlikowski (2013)

Before I do my thing: If I didn’t already mention, I created this blog as an assigned piece of work for uni. And since this assignment is due towards the end of April and I want to cover each continent, unfortunately I will only have time to do 4 films from each (human inhabited) continent, thus making Ida the last of my European cinematic endeavours. But like I said in my first post, I want to see every film worth seeing from everywhere, and turns out I actually quite like this whole blogging thing so I expect  I will return to European cinema eventually (turns out I might be studying in the Czech Republic next year so I’m particularly keen to see what they’ve produced). Anyway, I made a list featuring a few Asian, African, North/South American and Australian films I think I might cover in these posts up until April but they’re very open for discussion so if anyone is reading out there and has any suggestions of which films should/shouldn’t be representing countries/continents please let me know!!! I have very little ideas for the Australian continent so suggestions would be very very welcome.

So to top off the European branch of our film tour, I watched the Poland’s first Best Foreign Film Oscar winner: Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida. I can say with some certainty that this will have been both the first Polish film I’ve ever seen, and the first I’ve heard of the very talented and admirable Pawlikowski who has been living and creating in the UK for some time!!!  This was quite the change from last week’s watch, Vovler, in pretty much every way possible. Ida is quiet and not reliant upon dialogue, it is still, contemplative and stylistically unconventional with its framing.

The film left me somewhat intrigued, I guess I am a pretty casual spectator so I didn’t, at first understand why Pawlikowski’s artistic decisions worked so well and why I’d been so fascinated by such a seemingly simple film. (I have to add that as someone with a ridiculously short attention span the short run-time of 80 minutes worked perfectly for me.) I then watched this brilliant interview with him which covered his thought process throughout the film’s production. One thing he discussed in the interview was the use of black and white in the film, one of the visual aspects that really worked for me, though aware that the it’s set in the 1960’s I found myself unable to imagine it in colour and thought the lack of was an interesting choice. A few times in the interview he expresses his distaste for hollywood-esque realism, (referring to it as ‘fake realism’) and it is this falseness and pretence that he tries to avoid by using black and white,  creating something that is “removed from time.”

Another stand-out feature of the film was the  on-screen chemistry between leads Agata Trzebuchowska (Ida) and Agata Kulesza (Wanda). A friend of Pawlikowski spotted Trzebuchowska in a cafe in Warsaw, she had no previous acting experience and was unsure about taking the role. Her part in Ida however, earned her multiple nominations and some wins, as she timidly mastered the character’s energy, acting often with just her eyes due to the lack of dialogue. Kulesza also perfectly channels the anger of her character, the characters being the driving force of the film for Palikowski, who didn’t want the film to be seen as political (although it’s pretty hard not to in my opionion) but rather a study of those two characters coming together, which evidently works extremely well.


I thought this film was beautiful and timid, and although up against ridiculously strong contenders in the 2014 Oscars (Wild Tales, I’m looking at you), was entirely worthy of its win. I’d recommend giving it a watch, it’s quite short and lovely and contemplative for those kinds of evenings. Also give the interview with Palikowski a watch because he seems like the coolest guy.


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