I knew I was going to love Ida from the opening shot. Black and white and with the old 1.33 :1 ratio promised for a special movie experience.
Ida is a nun who is about to take her final vows when she finds out that she is actually Jewish and that her parents hid her at a nunnery at the end of the war. Ida then meets her aunt and goes across the country, experiencing life outside of the church and trying to find out where her Jewish parents are buried. Both the actresses who play Ida and her aunt, Wanda, are incredible. Agata Trzebuchowska, a student with no prior acting experience plays Ida with such fragility and innocence while Agata Kulesza, who plays Wanda, plays her character as a woman who has been beaten down by life, and as a result has become an alcoholic.
The language of this film is very visual. Even though it is in Polish, the dialogue isn’t very vital. Director Pawel Pawlikowski has patience with the shots and with the editing. There is a scene shot in a wide shot where Ida and her aunt, Wanda, are talking about where her parents might be. Eventually, Wanda leaves the shot. Most films would cut away with Wanda and follow her to where she is going, but the shot stays on Ida. It visually shows her as an orphan, she has nobody, except this aunt, whom she has only just met. I would imagine that some people may find the style of this movie bleak, but that is always the point. There is one moment when the film has some levity and it is in a scene when Ida is back at the nunnery after being out in the world. All of the nuns are eating dinner very somberly, and Ida lets out a bit of a giggle. It is after she has experienced new things, and she now realizes that maybe she doesn’t want to be a nun. There is never any dialogue to suggest that she is thinking this, it is done visually in the scene.
The film is a visual tour-de-force, a black and white reflection and study of two women who must connect, understand the role in each other’s lives, and their place is in society. Wanda presents a facade that allows her to hide her real self. She is hedonistic, strong, resourceful, but she is now willing to make concessions for her niece. When the truth comes out, the roles change, and it is at this moment that we see what each is capable of doing.
Again “Ida” is very economic in telling the story, most of it comes out from watching the performer’s looks, interactions with others. They hardly speak. The truth comes out in bits, sometimes it is told by what is not said. It’s guaranteed that you will probably be surprised, but it might also be possible you’ll catch the big revelation in the first ten minutes. It’s all in the way one perceives life, and one is familiar with the period. For a quiet film, “Ida” speaks loudly and clearly, with the determination to let us know her story, our story, and a lesson to prevent us from repeating the same mistakes. Ida is without a doubt the big favourite for winning the Oscar for “Best Foreign Film”.
Ida gets an 8.5/10.