The non-dramatic drama in Pawel Pawlikowski’s ‘Ida’ and what it means for a film style to be “transcendent”

Posted on November 7, 2019

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Read the full article on Firstpost, here: https://www.firstpost.com/entertainment/pawel-pawlikowskis-ida-and-its-non-dramatic-drama-what-it-means-for-a-film-style-to-be-transcendental-7615861.html

In last week’s column about Robert Bresson, I referred to Paul Schrader’s 1971 book, Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer. It was republished in 2018, with a new introduction titled “Rethinking Transcendental Style”. A lot of what I quote here is from this introduction, and we will see it as applied in Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida (2013). But first, what is “transcendental” style? It’s one of the precursors of what we call “slow cinema” today. It is a movement away from narrative, “a way station, if you will, in the post–World War II progression from neorealism to surveillance video”. By delaying edits and not moving the camera, by avoiding music cues, by not employing coverage from various angles (that a “normal” movie would mix up during the editing to heighten tension), and by heightening the mundane, there is a sense of watching real time unfold.

Schrader points to the shot of the maid striking the match in Vittorio De Sica’s Umberto D. (1952). In a video, he says, “It was no longer about the activity of striking a match. It was about how long you’re going to sit and watch.” The maid strikes a match against the kitchen wall three times; it fails to light. She gets another match and strikes again. There is no cutting. Now, why do we “need” to see this? What do we get from seeing this stretch, as opposed to a quick cut to a lit matchstick? Here’s what: Watch an image long enough and your mind goes to work. We get meditative, introspective. The question now is: What did you think about in the time it took while the maid was attempting to light the match? A transcendental guide or guru or filmmaker seeks to escort the respondent to another level of consciousness.

Continued at the link above.

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