I was in Lodz to see the museum exhibit dedicated to the making of Ida a few days after the display’s opening. The organizers planned it long before the Academy Awards ceremony and, to the surprise of many, the film won its prize just a couple days later. Very few had imagined its global success.
This exhibition was an invitation to the world of Ida in its preparation stages, test shots and the actual filming. It shows how the filmmakers created the magic of this motion picture honored with so many international awards.
Strangely, while at the museum, I was its only visitor. This created an intimate atmosphere and allowed closer contact with the content.
Below are some statements of people who made this feature film and by those who, like me, were delighted with its simplicity and honest approach to its subject matter. This movie will endure in the memory of many filmmakers who strive to attain similar, powerful forms of expression.
Pawel Pawlikowski/Ida’s director: People told me that making a movie in Polish, using black and white film and motionless camera with unknown actors in front of it, will be a career suicide, but apparently it wasn’t to happen.
Lukas Zal/cinematographer: The idea of making a black and white movie with long shots, using a motionless camera is director’s. Memories of his childhood spent in Poland were in black and white. That’s how he wanted to tell his story. He remembered his world as “uncluttered”, as he described it. The idea of cropping the image so as to create an empty space above characters’ heads was born right at the beginning. Then we discovered that it evokes the feeling of being lost, some kind of seclusion of the characters. We all had a feeling of doing something really important.
Liam Neeson/actor: The use of black and white, the manner of filming, the fact that it’s not long-winded and the phenomenal way of showing such a difficult theme are the reasons why this film will become a classic.
Agnieszka Holland/director: Ida is astonishingly pure in an artistic sense, modest and at the same time boldly consistent, ambiguous, spine tingling in both the simplicity and sophistication of its form, in adequacy of this form and its painful content, which brings no simple answers. It reflects the Polish spirit by alluding to some of the works of the Polish Film School with its theme and style, but it also refers to Bergman and Bresson.
Janusz Kaminski/Ida’s editor: The process of editing was rather long. To a degree, some of the ideas featured in the film were invented during editing. I was afraid of the emotional coldness in this film, but I’m glad that only a small portion of it survived after editing.
Ewa Puszczynska/Ida’s producer: It’s a very sincere film and we made it being honest to ourselves. What you see on the screen is exactly what we wanted to say. Moreover, this film deals with emotions that linger in every human being. It also deals with the fact that sometimes it’s the other people or the life itself that make those decisions for us. It’s also a film about what defines us, who we were born as or who we were raised with.
David Denby/Film critic: I can’t recall a movie that makes such expressive use of silence and portraiture; from the beginning, I was thrown into a state of awe by the movie’s fervent austerity. Friends have reported similar reactions: if not awe, then at least extreme concentration and satisfaction. This compact masterpiece has the curt definition and the finality of a reckoning—a reckoning in which anger and mourning blend together.