Ida is certainly one of the best films of the year. It’s restrained and pretty and deserves some accolades. There are so many stills I’d love to post from Ida. It’s stunning to look at. Pavel Pawlikowski and cinematographers Ryszard Lenczewski and Lukasz Zal choose to shoot in 4:3. That’s likely because they want a tall frame, as evidenced by the many wideshots that feature characters low in shot with a ton of negative space surrounding them.
Look at these shots. They’re kind of like Wim Wenders as filtered though Bela Tarr, and god are they gorgeous. It almost feels like a western. I particularly like…well all of them:
Much of the film feels this way. Negative space. Characters pushed to the margins. A lot of verticals and diagonals hovering over and around them. High contrast. And aside from several car shots, the camera doesn’t really move at all for almost 70 minutes.
If that shooting style, plus a narrative that features an about-to-be-nun Ida (first timer, Agata Trzebuchowska) meeting with her estranged aunt Wanda (Agata Kulesza) to find their shared history from WWII in 1960s Poland sounds like a bit of an artsy drag you’d be far off. Ida moves. It clicks along from all standpoints: script, edit (even if the average shot length is fairly long), and performance. It’s nearly a thriller but not quite.
It’s also impossible to talk about Ida without talking about Ida’s eyes:
Haunting, to say the least. She’d be right at home in a sci-fi film, but here her delicate portrayal is just brilliant. I wrote “restrained” above. A good example of that restraint without giving any plot away. There’s a short scene towards the end where Ida stifles a laugh. That’s it. It’s in a wide shot and then there’s a cut to another wide shot of the elder nuns subtly looking in her direction. This is all vague, but it’s a great scene and giving any context would give too much away. Suffice to say, a lesser film would have played this moment for more catharsis. A second laugh. An on-the-nose reaction. A snort. Pawlikowski keeps it calm.
Why is it that dance hall scenes immediately make me think of either The Firemen’s Ball or Il Posto? Ida‘s got it. These scenes are hazy and gorgeous. They’re languid and Coltrane-smooth:
Towards the end of the film, Pawlikowski does very intentionally change the shooting style. The negative space is less pronounced if there (look at that floor!):
Closeups are more traditionally framed:
And the camera moves with some real intention. In fact, the film ends on a long handheld shot.
Ida has one of the more unpredictable and tantalizing endings I’ve seen in a bit, and features a really harrowing and masterfully realized suicide sequence. It’s a great film.
Edge of Tomorrow
I’m surprised at how much I liked this film. It’s probably my favorite blockbuster of the year. Sure, I’m a sucker for a good sci-fi plot, but this one’s put-together pretty damn well.
Tom Cruise is Cage, a soldier in a future war who keeps reliving the same days over and over. It’s not quite Groundhog Day, but the loop is there.
The only other film of Cruise’s that I really love is probably Minority Report, but he’s good here. There’s the winning smile, of course, and he’s still the macho lead in the end, but he’s got some nice nuances.
Edge of Tomorrow isn’t perfect – its science fiction explanations are filled with inane jargon (“the prototype” is mentioned far too often); the great Noah Taylor is wasted in a boring scientist role (he of the prototype); and there’s a very obvious ending with an unnecessary epilogue.
But it is very entertaining, makes strong use of a montage mid-film for both clarity and fun elliptical harsh cuts (if you’ve seen it: boots, gunshot, boots, gunshot – it plays like one is shooting the other eventually), has a nicely designed structure, and takes good advantage of the things that a looping narrative – where the audience has already been party to a scene more than once – offers. It’s a good ride and Doug Liman turns in, for my money, his best film yet.