Pawel Pawlikowski

Poland, 2013


In 1960s in Poland, Anna, a novice is an orphan raised in a convent. According to the wish of Mother Superior, before she takes her monastic vows she visits her only relative, her mother’s sister – Wanda Gruz. The woman explains to the girl that she is a Jewess called Ida. They both set out on a journey which is supposed to help them get to know not only the tragic history of their family from the time of the German occupation  but also the truth about who they really are. A moving, quiet drama, remarkable in visual terms, skilfully combining an intimate story of a young woman with the historical and social background.


Pawel Pawlikowski

a Polish director and screenwriter born on 15 September 1957 in Warsaw. He spent his childhood in Mokotów in Warsaw. In 1971, when he was 14, Pawlikowski moved with his mother to the United Kingdom. Then he lived briefly in Germany, Italy and France, and finally settled in England, where he spent nearly 30 years of his life. During the first period of his stay in England he attended a Catholic school near London, run by the Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary.

He studied Literature and Philosophy at universities in London and Oxford. He started writing a doctoral thesis on an Austrian catastrophic poet Georg Trakl at the University of Oxford, where he enrolled in a film course. In 1986, he started an internship in BBC and started making documentary films. In 2004-2007 he was a Fellow at the Oxford Brookes University.  Presently, Pawlikowski lives in Warsaw.


  • 1988 Palace Life – director (a television biographical documentary about Tadeusz Konwicki)
  • 1990 –From Moscow to Pietushki with Benny Yerofeev – director (a television documentary)
  • 1992 Dostoevsky’s Travels – director (a documentary)
  • 1992 Serbian Epics – director (a documentary)
  • 1995 Tripping with Zhirinovsky – director, producer (a television documentary)
  • 1997 Lucifer over Lancashire – director (a television short film)
  • 1998 Twockers – director and writer (a documentary short film)
  • 1998 The Stringer – director and writer
  • 2000 Last Resort – director and writer
  • 2004 My Summer of Love – director and writer
  • 2011 La Femme du Vème – director and writer
  • 2013 Ida – director and writer


Original Titel: Ida
Director: Paweł Pawlikowski
Script: Original script was written by Paweł Pawlikowski (director) and Rebeka Lenkiewicz
Music: Kristian Eidnes Andersen
Art Direction: Łukasz Żal, Ryszard Lenczewski
Duration: 82’
Release Date: 2013
Country: Poland & Denmark
Color: Black & White
Agata Trzebuchowska as Ida
Agata Kulesza as Wanda
Dawid Ogrodnik as “Lis”
• 2013, Camerimage Golden Frog – The Best Cinematographers: Ryszard Lenczewski, Łukasz Żal
• 2014, European Film Award for Best European Film (Eric Abraham, Ewa Puszczyńska, Paweł
Pawlikowski, Piotr Dzięcioł)
• 2015, BAFTA Award for Best Film Not in the English Language (Eric Abraham, Ewa Puszczyńska, Paweł Pawlikowski, Piotr Dzięcioł)
• 2015, Oscar Award for Best Foreign Language Film (Paweł Pawlikowski)




“I’ve made a film about calm, about faith. This is a very Christian film,” said Paweł Pawlikowski, director of Ida, in an interview on TVP Info.”


“I struggled with this story for a long time. I usually write three scripts at once, so I simply let go. I didn’t have the character of Wanda. Everyone around me were pissed. But I felt that there was something in this story, something good in this Ida. You only needed to add other elements, mostly Wanda. Their relationship is the
heart of the film and its content. And one more thing: I got fascinated with Poland of the 1960s.
I started listening to music I knew from my youth, I went through albums from my childhood. And suddenly I felt this was the critical mass. And the whole courage was a result of a conviction that it wasn’t a commercial film and no one would see it. In England they thought I was committing professional hara-kiri. Cooperation with cinematographer Łukasz Żal meant a lot. Whenever I came up with some crazy idea, he would pull it in his
direction. I recognised a kindred spirit.” (…) “I was afraid a bit but I’ve never wanted Ida to be treated as a film about the Holocaust. To me, this was more of a love letter to Poland, to certain mentality, music. To art that used to be so courageous here… and in some places still is. Such a daredevil attitude…”


My characters. “(…) I also avoided journalism. All characters in my film: the nun, the Stalinist woman, the peasant digging out bones in the forest, and the saxophone player from the hotel are close to me. I thought I was committing professional harakiri: a black and white film in Polish, with actors unknown in the world. But it’s always like this, whenever I do something mostly for myself, I get some response. At the festival in Colorado I saw people entering the world of Ida without knowing anything about it. Some people said it was grey and terrifying, while others called it lyrical and beautiful.” Intuition. (…) “I was constantly rewriting, changing
the script of Ida, and I finally threw it away. In the case of a normal, professionally made film, I would
have been got rid of as well. During the shooting of Ida we were saved by snow. It was snowing and we had to stop the shooting. We made a bigger deal of it than it really was but I had time to rewrite the script. Everything’s allowed as long as the final form is real and distinctive.”


“I definitely didn’t want to make a film about a specific issue, about relations between Poles and Jews,” emphasises Pawlikowski in an interview for Newsweek. “This is why it is mostly about the relationship
between two completely different women who are closely related not only through blood but also strong faith. And about this particular moment when the stone-hard socialism and bare terror were retreating from Poland, and new life was slipping into the country through the slightly opened door.”
“Enraged nationalists who perceive history as a sword, get at me saying that I present Poles in a bad light,” says Pawlikowski. “And some oversensitive Jews in the States don’t like the fact that my heroine used to be a Stalinist prosecutor and has blood on her hands. And they were even more irritated by the fact that Ida, who has Jewish blood flowing through her veins, returns to the convent.
People who perceive the world from the perspective of politics, ideology, race, don’t understand the film at all, they can’t see it’s not a story with a thesis. I’ve always wanted to create complicated, paradoxical characters. Such as people I know from real life and I like watching in films. To quote Jean Renoir: ‘Tout le monde a ses raisons!’, everyone has their own reasons. And I believe that good and evil is mixed in every soul, just like in the
case of the film murderer who’s left in an empty grave, broken-down, finished. In fact, I feel sorry for him, he’s been living with this burden for a long time. Ida also feels sorry for him. She’s a true Christian.”
“You know,” adds the director, “I can easily empathise with others, which is why I can understand my heroes without the need to judge them. I like women like Wanda: full of passion, driven by an idea; sensual and intellectual at once, being constantly torn, wise but at the same time naïve, who have reached an impasse. But I don’t envy them. On the other hand, I envy Ida her peace and faith. Or rather: peaceful faith. Being in God, the state of grace. Although she’s someone else than she thought she was, she’s still confident in this world.”



“The circumstances in which you got to the set of Ida were rather unusual, weren’t they?”
“That’s true. Małgosia Szumowska, who’s Paweł Pawlikowski’s friend, visited the same café as me, I’ve heard she took a photo of me then (which I didn’t notice) and she sent it to Paweł. She knew he was looking for an actress for his new film, although she didn’t know any details. She left the barista her contact details. She knew I was frequently visiting that café. When I got the contact details, I wrote an e-mail, and Małgośka contacted me with the producers from Opus Film and I went to Łódź for the shooting.”
“What impact has this film had on your life? Has anything changed?” “I mostly think of Ida as an interpersonal meeting. I really value my friendship with Paweł Pawlikowski, we’re still in close contact. I can’t say that playing
in this film, or even its success, has redefined my life. Perhaps it’s because when I got the offer to play Ida, I was already a mature person. I had clear views and plans. Ida didn’t change them.” “Ida is a film of two actresses: you and Agata Kulesza. How such a young amateur coped in a pair with one of the greatest contemporary Polish artists?”
“The work was great, I felt no stress whatsoever, which could be expected from matching an amateur with an experienced actress. We had warm, positive relations, which got translated into the set and made the work easier. In her scenes with me, Agata played a bit differently – more intensely, she stimulated me. Working with her was like returning a ball passed by an expert. Scenes with Agata were much easier for me than any other.”


1. “I’ve heard the most beautiful compliment on your role in Ida from the director of Nights and Days Jerzy Antczak, who said: ‘To play scum and move us is close to the acting ideal’. How to achieve this?”
“Oh, these are beautiful, really beautiful words. I think I was extremely lucky because I received great material to play. A character that is not one-dimensional or shallow. I could find some information on my own, and I’ve got my sensitivity, and I met someone like Paweł Pawlikowski, who managed this all. One of our first decisions
concerning the character of Wanda was that she should be likeable. I think it’s a great achievement of Paweł and the script’s co-author that the character was developed, built and shown like that. I like this role very much also because I feel I’m its co-creator. Besides, I hate it when people say that an actor recreates a role* as if it was already created by someone else before. Paweł knows very well what he needs and I fitted into his idea of this character. So we went through the work on this film together.”


*A literal translation of the Polish phrase “odtwarzać rolę”, which is an equivalent of “to play the role” translator’s note).
2. “Agata Trzebuchowska, who played Anna in Ida, is only starting her career. Did you feel as her mentor? Or perhaps in was cooperation on purely equal terms?”
“I adopted a partnership position. Agata is a very wise and educated girl with a distinctive personality.
This was enough to build the character of Anna. Besides, Agata has a few wonderful traits: she knows how to listen and respond, and she has an instinct. This is very important. Agata knew she didn’t have to over-act anything. She is intelligent and was great when we analysed the text. I really enjoyed working with her and I’m glad we met.”,138589,title,Ida-Wywiad-z-Agata-Kulesza-Bardzo-chcialam-miec-ciemneoczy,wiadomosc.html?ticaid=1175eb&_ticrsn=3

about the actresses:

About Trzebuchowska “On the screen, you simply can’t tear your eyes from Ida. She has an extremely charismatic face, even though there are hardly any facial expressions.”
“That’s true, Agata doesn’t have to play with her face. No great gestures, smiles or any other conventional
emotional expressions are needed. Everything happens inside, in her eyes. And then, any smile or tear becomes a great, moving event.”


About Kulesza
“I’m a documentarian, which is why when I choose an actress, I first find out what she is like, and not what she can do. I look at what is hidden inside. However, this doesn’t mean that I later use the personal traits I find in the film or the character the person plays. Still, thanks to these private traits, I can identify the potential. And this was the case with Agata Kulesza. I knew she was a great actress but to me she also displayed very interesting energy. There’s some courage, some madness in her, certain motor skills in her body, intelligence in her eyes and, at the same time, warmth and sense of humour, which I really liked. I simply get attracted to certain people.”


• Wanda’s story refers to the biography of Julia Brystygier – Bloody Luna and the Stalinist prosecutor Halina Wolińska-Brus. Pawlikowski met the latter, a wife of his professor, at Oxford. He remembers her as a charming, witty elderly lady.

• Similarly to Ida, although much later, Paweł Pawlikowski learnt about the Jewish descent of his father:
“For a very long time, no one spoke about this. I learnt from documents that my grandmother had died in Auschwitz. Who my grandfather was and how he died remained secret. This was a very important discovery to me, although it’s never been a problem as it perhaps was for my father.”




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