Pawel Pawlikowski’s stunningly shot exploration of faith and history finds a novice nun coming face-to-face with her family’s past in 1960s Poland.
Filmed in incandescent black-and-white, with each frame exquisitely composed, UK-based director Pawel Pawlikowski’s (My Summer of Love, Last Resort) new film is an elegy for his homeland and an intimate, poetic exploration of the limits of faith. Orphaned during WWII, Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) was brought up in a rural convent and in early 60s Poland is a young novice preparing to take her vows. When the Mother Superior insists she make contact with her last remaining relative, she meets her aunt Wanda (Agata Kulesza), a free-living intellectual working as a judge and secretly annihilating painful memories with a heady mix of sex and booze. Their encounter lifts the shroud off the dark secret of their family’s past and both women must confront the devastating truth. Pawlikowski’s cinematic style here recalls the great Robert Bresson who wrote of actors: ‘the thing that matters is not what they show me but what they hide from me and, above all, what they do not suspect is in them’. Both actresses are superb and reveal much with what they do not show, but this pure and haunting concept is also true of the film’s cogent and profoundly moving narrative.
Pawel Pawlikowski, a UK-based, Bafta award-winning filmmaker, was born in Warsaw but left Poland at the age of 14 to live in Germany and Italy, before moving to the UK in 1977. He studied literature and philosophy in London and at Oxford and started making films in the mid 1980s. Pawel’s early work was in documentaries for the BBC, his best-known of which include include From Moscow to Pietushki, Dostoevsky’s Travels, Serbian Epics and Tripping with Zhirinovsky, which between them won an Emmy International, Prix Italia, the Grierson and two Royal Television Society Awards alongside many other prizes around the festival circuit. In 1998 Pawlikowski moved into fiction with the small budget made-for-TV film Twockers, which he co-wrote and directed with Ian Duncan and is strongly rooted in his early experience with documentary. This was followed by two full-length features, Last Resort and My Summer of Love, both of which he wrote and directed and which both won Baftas, as well as other awards at festivals around the world.
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