Pawel Pawlikowski

6.5 Last Resort (2000)
7.0 My Summer of Love (2004)
7.0 The Woman in the Fifth (2011)
7.1 Ida (2013)
7.3 Zimna Wojna/ Cold War (2018)

Pawel Pawlikowski (Poland, 1957) was still a teenager when he emigrated to Britain. He started out with documentaries and the short film Twockers (1998).

The Stringer (1998)

Last Resort (2000)

My Summer of Love (2004)

The Woman in the Fifth (2011), photographed by Ryszard Lenczewski, is an enigmatic psychological drama based on Douglas Kennedy's novel.

Ida (2013), photographed ahgain by Ryszard Lenczewski set in communist Poland in 1962, is a melancholy meditation on the meaning of life in an atheistic world disguised as a simple tragedy of victims of the war. This world is atheistic because God allowed Jews to be exterminated, communism to rule, and friends to kill friends. Ida renounces life not to serve God but to escape humanity. This bleak story is told in a humble and succint manner, disposing of all spectacle.

Anna grew up in an orphanage and now lives in a convent, ready to become a nun. She and three other novices erect a statue of Jesus in the snow-covered yard. Her mother superior tells her that, before taking the vows to become a nun, she must visit her only living relative, her aunt Wanda. Anna travels to the city, where all the traffic looks alien to her. Her aunt lives alone in an apartment, is an alcoholic and a chain smoker, and has occasional sex with random men. They have never seen each other. After a few minutes of embarrassed conversation, Anna learns from Wanda that Anna is not her real name: she is Ida, and she is a Jew. Her parents were Jews, killed during the war. Wanda is a judge who used to be famous as "Red Wanda" because she sentenced to death several anti-communists. Ida now would like to pray on her parents' grave, and Wanda is no less motivated by the project. Wanda drives to the town where Ida's parents used to live and then had to hide. The aunt, after having a few drinks at a local bar, tracks down the house but the man who lives there is hostile: his father is the one who hid the Jews. As they drive away, Wanda is arrested for driving drunk and Ida has to sleep on the floor of the police station. The following morning they set out to find the man's father, who should know where the Jews died. On the way they give a ride to a handsome young man, a saxophonist who is going to the same town to play at a dance. Wanda ironically tells Ida that her vows will be meaningless if she has never tried the pleasures of the flesh. Wanda and Anna/Ida take a room in the only hotel of the town. The two women have lunch while the band is rehearsing and they are the only customers in the restaurant. That night Anna/Ida refuses to join Wanda as she walks downstairs to listen to the band and dance. Wanda flirts with a man who takes her back to the hotel room. Ida, upset, walks out and meets the saxophonist. The following day Wanda and Ida knock at the old man's apartment. He is at the hospital, and Wanda does not hesitate to break into his apartment. Something that she finds there greatly disturbs her. Later they visit the old man at the hospital. Wanda flatly accuses him of killing the Jewish family. He tells her that he hid them and fed them, and doesn't deny killing them. Wanda asks if the boy was afraid, and we learn that Wanda had a son and she had left the son with her sister (Ida's mother) to join the resistance. Her boy was murdered with Ida's parents, and Wanda believes it was the old man. They leave the old man who is dying. His son shows up. He tells Ida that he will take her to the grave if she promises to leave the old man die in peace. Ida meets the saxophonist again and he tells her that she is beautiful. She removes her veil and undoes her hair to stare at herself in the mirror. The son takes her to the woods where the killing happened. He digs until he finds the bones. He hands the skull of the boy to Wanda, who wraps it in a piece of cloth and takes it to the car. He admits that he is the one who killed the family. Ida asks why she wasn't killed. He says that the boy was circumcised and therefore easily recognized as a Jew, but she was just a baby. He left her to a priest thinking that nobody would ever find out that she was a Jew (we are not told how the convent found out that she had an aunt). Ida collects the bones of her parents. Wanda and Ida drive to their family's grave and bury the remains. Ida goes back to the convent and doesn't take the vows with the other novices because she doesn't feel ready. Meanwhile, her aunt is getting drunk again and, after sleeping with another random man, jumps from the window of her apartment to her death. Ida visits the empty apartment and assumes her aunt's persona: she dresses sexy, smokes and drinks. After the funeral (held by former comrades of the "red" judge), Ida sleeps with the saxophonist. Then she travels back to the convent to take the vows: now she is ready.

Zimna Wojna/ Cold War (2018) is potentially a moving love story but told with the cold detachment of a mathematical theorem.

Musicians are performing in a snowy street. While they play, they stare coldly into the camera, watched only by a child. Three men are touring the countryside in a truck, a driver and two experts in folk music, Wiktor and Irena. We see an accordion performer on the stage of a dancehal, and another street performer. Wiktor and Irena are recording them. It is 1949, after World War II in a devastated Poland. A politician visits a bombed-out church with a giant hole in the roof. Later he inaugurates a new institute for folk music and dance in a large building of the countryside. Wiktor and Irena are in charge of selecting the musicians and dancers who will be admitted. A young pretty woman, Zula, joins the line but actually doesn't know what to perform. He improvises a duet with another much less attractive singer. Irena thinks that the ugly one is much better, but Wiktor chooses the pretty one. Irena guesses that the girl is a fake, not a real peasant. There are rumors that she tried to kill her father and spent time in prison. Alone with Zula, Wiktor asks her about her father. Zula admits that she is on probation for the attack but justifies it because her father tried to rape her. She didn't kill him. Wiktor coaches her privately to make her a better singer while Irene teaches everybody dancing. Fast forward to 1951 and they are ready to perform live. Wiktor conducts the choir, which is followed by dances. The frigid Irena and Wiktor share a cigarette at the reception. The politician, Kaczmarek, congratulates them. Wiktor and Zula have sex. Kaczmarek's boss, an influential communist, wants them to add a political message to their show. Irena objects that communist propaganda is not folk art, but Kaczmarek accepts, and so the next performance takes place in front of a giant poster of Stalin, and the troupe is brainwashed with communist slogans and even forced to sing the "Internationale". Irena quits while Wiktor is asked to lead the troupe on a tour of communist countries, starting with East Berlin, which is under Soviet occupation. Wiktor and Zula continue their love affair. Zula admits to Wiktor that Kaczmarek asked her to spy on him, and she had no choice but to acquiesce because she is still on probation. Wiktor is initially upset but she jumps dressed in the river and he can't resist her. There is tension as they warm up at a bonfire. The troupe takes the train to Berlin. Wiktor tells Zula that he has a plan to run across the militarized line and defect to the West. He is planning a future with her. Zula promises to join him. It is now 1952 and they are performing in Berlin. Before the banquet, Wiktor starts walking towards the border. Zula is in the dressing room, she hesitates, she joins Kaczmarek at the banquet. Wiktor waits in vain till dark and then he walks alone to the other side In 1954 Wiktor lives in Paris and has become the pianist in the jazz orchestra of a nightclub. Zula finds him in a cafe. They haven't seen each other since he escaped. She tellls him that she has a man, he tells her that he has a woman. She doesn't look happy, neither does he. He walks her to her hotel. He asks her why she didn't join him. She says she didn't have the moral strength. They kiss passionately but then she leaves. He goes home to his woman and goes to sleep. Fast forward to 1955. Wiktor shows up at a performance of Kazcmarek's troupe in Yugoslavia. Kazcmarek shakes his hand like an old friend and welcomes him to their performance. Zula sees him in he audience and seems about to faint. Wiktor notices communist guards at both exits of the theater. They load him into a car and put him on a train, thereby keeping him from seeing Zula. Zula notices the empty seat and continues the show. Fast forward to 1957. Wiktor, back in Paris, is working on the musical score for an Italian horror film. Zula joins him: she has married an Italian man to obtain a visa and be with Wiktor. They have sex, enjoy a romantic evening. They finally seem happy. They work at the night club, she's a pop singer now. He introduces her to his friend Michel at a party. She meets a famous poet, Juliette, Wiktor's former lover. They are hostile to each other. She gets angry at Wiktor for exaggerating her life's story to Michel (that he killed her father and danced for Stalin). She gets drunk, jealous of Juliette, and dances with another man in a night club. They keep writing songs and recording them for Zula's first record. Zula is not grateful that Wiktor is doing all of this for her. The record is released, but she is increasingly gloomy, and suddenly tells Wiktor that Michel fucked her six times in one night. Later, Wiktor walks into Michel's place looking for Zula and finds him with another girl. Michel tells him that Zula returned to Poland. Wiktor goes back to play jazz at the nightclub but his mind is always with Zula, and his playing is getting out of control. He makes an expensive phone call from a pay-phone trying to locate her in vain. He visits the Polish ambassador who advises him to stay out of Poland because he is considered a traitor. It is now 1959 and Zula is on a train. Then she walks into a labor camp surrounded by armed guards. She is visiting Wiktor, his hair shaved, who has been sentenced to 15 years, and his hand has been injured on purpose to destroy his musical career. She bribes the guard to let her kiss him and promises to find a way to free him. Fast forward to 1964: a performance of Cuban music by a Polish band fronted by Zula, wearing a brunette wig. Wiktor meets Kaczmarek, who helped to free him after marrying Zula and having a child from her. Zula walks out stage drunk and hugs Wiktor before throwing up. Wiktor follows her in the bathroom where she removes her wig and begs him to free her. They take a bus to the countryside and get off in the middle of nowhere. They walk to the bombed out church of the beginning, get on their knees in front of the altar, utter the words that celebrate their wedding, and swallow pills to commit suicide. They walk outside and sit on a bench, waiting patiently for the end. Then she suggests that they enjoy the view of the other side, and they walk out of the visual field of the camera.
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