Why Was “Ida” Shot With an Antiquated Look?


Director Paweł Pawlikowski made the decision early on to shoot Ida in black & white. His British producer was initially reluctant to make a film this way, reportedly telling the director that it would make the project look like a student film, but Pawlikowski was insistent, believing it was the right choice for the material as well as for the look that he had in mind.

While shooting tests with different lenses and his costumed actresses, Pawlikowski decided to shoot in the square-like Academy ratio - once the standard aspect ratio for motion pictures until the 1950’s and later the standard ratio for television programming until the 2000’s. Part of it came out of an idea to frame each shot so that the bodies of his characters would not dominate the compositions, and eventually he came to the aesthetic he used for the film, where the camera would often be tilted up, leaving a lot of space above their heads. In Academy ratio, which gave a tighter framing to the sides, the space directly over the characters was accentuated even further. To Pawlikowski, the result was completely right as it made everyone look “lost in space.”