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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Saturday, October 11, 2014

entry arrow12:10 AM | A Novice's Journey to the End of Innocence

The race for the 87th Academy Awards has essentially started with all the online punditry abuzz with each new screening -- and as usual, I want to do my annual unflagging attempt to seeing all possible films in contention, even before the official nominations come on January. This blog series aims to chronicle this effort.

PaweĊ‚ Pawlikowski's Ida (2013), Poland's official entry to Oscar's Best Foreign Language Film derby, unfurls like a shining throwback to old, silent cinema: there is the beautifully stark black and white cinematography that seems to pulsate with an odd mix of hope and dread; there is the spare dialogue that privileges the drama of gestures and faces; and there is the deliberate glacial pace of the narrative that nonetheless dares us to pay so close an attention that soon the subtleties of the highly orchestrated mise-en-scene embrace us with the languor of the commonplace, only to slap us with the shock of the unexpected. This shouldn't be a gripping film, but it is. What cinematic alchemy has it found? Perhaps the material calls for such aesthetic choices. A young Polish novice, on the brink of becoming a nun, is given leave by her Mother Superior to visit an estranged aunt, someone she has not seen since she was orphaned as a baby, and someone who turns out to be a tough judge in 1960s Communist Poland. The eventual reunion brings out dark surprises for the young woman: she is, in fact, Jewish, and her parents were apparently murdered at the height of World War II. In their quest to seek out the unmarked place where their family is buried, they confront hard choices that could prove either fatal or life-changing. I've made it sound dour and desultory -- and perhaps the film indeed is. It is dark, and I'm not sure if it carries any redemptive quality. But it is such an interesting, and winning, photographic experiment in capturing mood, atmosphere, and the fallow depths of character. I wouldn't want to see this film again, and that is a commendation.

Best Foreign Language Oscar Chances: Good.


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