“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.”
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.”
“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.”