Pawel Pawlikowski, Ida

By Kay, Jeremy | Screen International, November 21, 2014 | Go to article overview

Pawel Pawlikowski, Ida


Kay, Jeremy, Screen International


Pawel Pawlikowski tells Jeremy Kay about exploring the Poland of his childhood in Ida, and why he wanted to portray universal themes of faith and identity within the context of a very personal journey

Pawel Pawlikowski says he has no masterplan. The film-maker created Ida, his acclaimed story of a young nun's coming of age in post-war Poland, in response to where he was in life.

"Life is full of zig-zags," says Pawlikowski, who has returned to live in his native Warsaw after a lifetime studying, working and living mostly in the UK by way of Germany, Italy and France.

"I used to love making documentaries in the late '80s and early '90s, and then I made fiction films that are more about love and death and stuff," he says. "And now I'm going back in time [and making a film] about faith and identity, and the Poland of my childhood."

Ida is the first film Pawlikowski has shot in Poland and the story is infused with nostalgia for his homeland's complicated recent history.

Impeccable performances by newcomer Agata Trzebuchowska and veteran Agata Kulesza allied to bleakly beautiful vistas have positioned the Polish foreign-language Oscar submission as an awards front runner. It has been hailed a masterpiece but Pawlikowski prefers not to dwell on the accolades. He speaks gently and with an accent, and his eyes often shine through his tinted glasses.

"I have always been attached to Poland, for better or worse," he says. "Sometimes I'm proud of it, sometimes embarrassed, but I've always felt Polish.

"I never had a hook on it. I didn't live there for most of my life, so it took time to find my way in. [Ida] is not just about Poland; it's more about universal things that can be best expressed in Poland, strangely. It's a fascinating time and place that I've chosen."

Pawlikowski co-wrote Ida with playwright Rebecca Lenkiewicz. "We needed a script to get financing," he says. "If I'd had my own way, I would have worked with 20 pages -- like I've done with other things -- but nowadays in order to get financing you need 90 pages of script.

"So we wrote it and rewrote it. It was my world and she was a very good partner. We finally arrived at 64 pages and went to financiers, and I knew we would change half of it anyway in the process. The screenwriting never stops."

Pawlikowski filmed from November 2012 to July 2013 in this way: writing and directing blurred together, defying "industrialised" Hollywood's rules of separate functions. "I steer clear of that," says the director, whose credits include My Summer Of Love and The Woman In The Fifth. …

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