Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida went on to win a number of accolades and prizes, including inspiring Paul Schrader for First Reformed (2017) (see my earlier review). On that basis I was hoping for a masterpiece, perhaps I was too expectant.
Ida is set in 1962 Poland and is about a young woman (Anna) who grew up in an orphanage and is about to take her vows before fully committing to becoming a nun, before she can, her Mother Superior informs her to go see her estranged aunt Wanda, Anna agrees and goes to meet her.
Anna’s aunt used to be state prosecutor but now is an alcoholic and heavy smoker, when Anna first meets Wanda a man is seen dressing and leaving the place. Wanda reveals a shocking truth, Anna’s real name is Ida and she is Jewish. This shocking revelation spurns Ida to learn about her past, Wanda agrees to help her and the two go in search of what happened to her parents.
The journey is a mixed bag, people in Poland are still recovering from the past physically and psychologically and the aftermath of the holocaust so it is difficult for the two to get people to open up. They eventually do trace down the farm where the family stayed, but there is more tragedy, and the impact that has on the two is far more then they could have imagined.
The film has exquisite cinematography and is shot in black and white which adds to the film, the way Pawlikowski uses the camera set just off the action is brilliant. The quiet and sombre setting of the nunnery is amazing to look at. Agata Trzebuchowska is good as Ida, but Agata Kulesza as Wanda steals each scene, she is fierce. The ending reminded of Truffaut’s Les quatre cents coup (The 400 Blows), definitely worth checking that out.
Now what stopped me from giving it a higher rating was that I perhaps expected more from it, I wanted to learn more about Ida’s family and history and Ida’s upbringing but maybe that was me. I would still recommend seeing it, watch out for the actor Joanna Kulig as the jazz singer as she pops up in Pawlikowski’s latest offering Cold War (2018) which seems to be gaining rave reviews.