Ida director Paweł Pawlikoswki’s exquisitely chilling Soviet-era drama maps the dark heart of Poland itself
The torn curtain of love is the theme of Paweł Pawlikowski’s mysterious, musically glorious and visually ravishing film set in cold war Poland and beyond. The crystalline black-and-white cinematography exalts its moments of intimate grimness and its dreamlike showpieces of theatrical display. It is an elliptical, episodic story of imprisonment and escape, epic in scope. A love affair thrashes and wilts in the freedom of a foreign country, and then begins to submit to the homeland’s doomy gravitational pull. Like Pawlikowski’s previous picture, Ida, this is about the dark heart of Poland itself. The wounded love at its centre surfaces from the depths of cynicism, exhaustion and state-sponsored submission and fear.
In Poland of the late 1940s, as the cold war’s snowy chill begins to settle, a musician and a broadcaster are touring remote villages with their recording equipment, earnestly listening to folk songs, hoping to recruit a fresh-faced troupe of young people for a show of authentic traditional Polish song and dance. These youngsters will be billeted in a country house for a month – as if in some prehistoric un-televised reality show – and drilled in picturesque Polish musical forms, with some tested for starring roles, ready to be shown off at theatrical evenings to party officials and maybe even politically congenial foreigners.