Set in Poland during the 1960’s, Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) is a young novitiate nun, happily preparing to take her vows. She is content with her life and is looking forward to making the next step to become a nun. Her world is changed when she is brought into the Mother Superior’s office and told that before she can take her vows she must make a trip to see her only living relative, an aunt named Wanda (Agata Kulesza).
Anna travels by bus to visit Wanda, a chain smoking, hard drinking judge in the very communist world of post-World War II Poland. Wanda is a former big wig in the communist party, a woman who has seen a lot during her life. Anna learns that her real name is Ida and that she is Jewish, her parents perished during the war and she was handed over to a Catholic priest by them before they died. Wanda doesn’t know how or why Anna’s parents died and they decide to go on a road trip to find out what really happened. And so starts this beautifully shot, mesmerizing film that slowly reveals it’s storyline in the cold winter of the Polish countryside, as Anna and Wanda search for truth in a country that likes to hold onto its secrets.
This Polish film is strikingly shot in black and white, where cinematographers Ryszard Lenczewski and Lukasz Zal, let the screen fill with soft, milky shots of Polish life in the 1960’s rule of Communism. It’s the lack of color that lends to the film’s feel of a sense of doom that seems to always hover overhead. The film is filled with shots of grey, so that the film and its story are murky at best, nothing is clear. Director Pawel Pawlikoski, who co-wrote the script with Rebecca Lenkiewicz, does a masterful job of bringing across the starkness of life in that time. Very few times are their more than a handful of people in the frame of the shots of the film, bringing across how lonely and alone Anna and Wanda are in their search for the truth.
The two lead actresses are amazing in this film and a perfect contrast to each other. Trzebuchowska, as Anna, is strikingly beautiful, and on screen it’s as she never quite moves. She reluctantly explores the real world, never quite wanting to fully commit to the harsh reality away from her very safe, religious life. Anna rarely speaks, so Trzebuchowska makes us want to protect her with her innocent and sometimes troubled looks. In contrast, Kulesza’s Wanda is a woman who speaks her mind in both her words and her actions. She is a woman determined to show Anna what the world has to offer, even if it is hard and unappealing. Kulesza gives us a performance filled with regret and sadness.
This film perfectly captures a time in the world where the effects of both World War II and the Cold War were front and center. It’s movie that explores the importance of religion and faith in the person’s life, as we see Anna struggle to have to come to terms with her past. “Ida” is a film that though shot in black and white, shows us a world that can be murky and grey. And it’s a world that holds onto its secrets with a firm grip. My Rating: Full Price
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
“Ida” is playing exclusively at the Plaza Theatre