"I'm not afraid of taking risks. Sometimes I think I made an experiment out of life. Making a black-and-white film, in Polish, with actors unknown in the world, also smelled of professional harakiri." *

He was born on 15 September 1957 in Warsaw. His father, a doctor by profession, emigrated to Austria after his marriage broke up. His mother, an English lecturer at Warsaw University, emigrated to the United Kingdom with her then teenage son. The complicated fate of the parents' relationship - separations, returns - became the plot on which Pawlikowski based the story of Zula and Wiktor, the protagonists of 'Cold War'.

He studied literature and philosophy at universities in London and Oxford. After receiving an internship at the legendary British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), he decided to take a break from academia and turned to filmmaking. Participating in a programme designed for young filmmakers, he submitted a project for a documentary about a priest who planned to erect a large cross on top of Pendle Hill in Lancashire. Made for the BBC, ‘From Moscow to Petushki with Venedict Yerofeyev’ was both a biography of the writer and a variation on the title work. Another of Pawlikowski's documentaries, the humorous ‘Dostoevsky's Travels’, tells the story not so much of the famous writer as of his great-grandson, a tram driver in St. Petersburg who is looking for a second-hand Mercedes during his trip to the West at the invitation of a German literary society. Pawlikowski showed yet another documentary story about his contemporary Russia in his film ‘Excursion with Zhirinovsky’, in which he accompanies a Russian politician on a cruise in the Volga, showing from his point of view his disillusionment with the country after the transformation. In the Balkans, he shot the film 'Serbian Epics', in which he showed, without being euphoric about cruelty, how violence is born out of nationalism in a horrifying way. However, by his own admission, he never fully felt himself to be a documentary filmmaker. One of his first feature films, ‘Last Exit’ (2000), telling the story of a Russian emigrant seeking asylum in the UK, won critical acclaim. The film won the Critics' Choice Award at the prestigious London Film Festival and a BAFTA, for a promising British filmmaker. Pawlikowski won another BAFTA, this time in the 'best director' category, for ‘Summer of Love’, in which British actress Emily Blunt played one of her first roles.

After a break of several years, the director returned to the big screen with the film 'Woman of the Fifth District', based on the crime novel by Douglas Kennedy. In the meantime, a screenplay entitled ‘Sister of mercy’ came out of a collaboration with Cezary Harasimowicz. Although it was later rewritten by the director together with British screenwriter Rebecca Lenkiewicz, it became the core of the 2013 film 'Ida'. The black-and-white, simple in form picture tells an intimate and at the same time universal story of the search for one's own identity. The film won not only the most important domestic cinema awards, but also recognition outside Poland - the BAFTA award for best foreign language film and an Oscar in the same category. It was the first Polish film to win an American Academy Award in this category. Pawlikowski received the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 2018 for his next film, ‘Cold War’. The script for the film, inspired by the turbulent history of the director's parents' relationship, was written in collaboration with the Polish writer Janusz Glowacki. It was to him that the director dedicated the award. In January 2019, Pawlikowski's melodrama received as many as three Oscar nominations: for best foreign language film, best director and cinematographer (for Łukasz Żal). Although it failed to win a golden statuette this time, 'Cold War' was one of the biggest festival hits of 2018.

The director is currently in the process of working on a new film, with famous acting couple Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara set to play the lead roles. (Photo.)

* Krzysztof Kwiatkowski: Paweł Pawlikowski, Polish Directors Guild, http://polishdirectors.com/member_post/pawlikowski-pawel/.

Photo: Jim Smeal/BEI/BEI/Shutterstock


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