How Zal and Lenczewski Shot the Sublime Ida

Get the inside story of the acclaimed black-and-white Ida from its two Oscar-nominated DPs,  Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski.

Best Foreign Language Oscar frontrunner Ida contains an interesting hybrid aesthetic of the old and new: soft light and sharp focus, shot digitally with the Alexa in color and recorded in ArriRaw on a Codex, and then turned into black-and-white in post on a Nucoda at the DI Factory in Warsaw. It has wonderful contrast and tonal balance. It’s the perfect look for Pawel Pawlikowski’s meditative struggle with memory, history, and faith in ’60s Poland, recalling Dreyer, Bergman, and Wajda.

Veteran Lenczewski began by taking 3,000 stills in the countryside and discovering loneliness, sadness and nostalgia, which set the tone for the movie. He was influenced particularly by the work of photographer Cartier-Bresson, who captured ordinary moments using single light sources that contained an aura of the metaphysical.

Unfortunately, Lenczewski became ill and was only able to shoot for 10 days and was replaced by camera operator Zal, who was quickly promoted to DP. It was the chance of a lifetime but a challenging one. There was no time for rehearsals, little camera movement and lots of long takes. It was simple, stripped down, forlorn, dreamlike, getting lost in vertical landscapes, almost oppressive at times, according to the director.

Zal explains: “I had a fresh approach to anything I did, all I knew was the photographs Ryszard took, all the ideas were born as we moved on, we allowed ourselves for the creativity and open mind so we could, as Pawel liked to put it, fantasize…”

Inspired in part by the Polish cinema of the ’60s and the director’s memories of the period, they created a mosaic: sparing, minimalistic, with no unnecessary ornaments. They built frames they used to call “posters.” Equally important was the space outside the frame and a set design that allowed them to interpret this space anyway they wanted to keep everything historically accurate at the same time.

Read the rest at TOH/Indiewire.

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Below the Line, Cinematography, Movies, Oscar

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