The below review also appears over at Flickering Myth…
A film by Pawel Pawlikowski
Starring Agata Trzebuchowska, Agata Kulesza, Dawid Ogrodnik, Jerzy Trela, Adam Szyszkowski
A young novice nun is preparing to take her vows when a long lost aunt brings alternately
illuminating and harrowing news of a life she never knew existed…
Ida, more than anything else, is a film concerned with the weight of history. Its emotionally charged
brush strokes and fine illustration are delicately measured in detailed frames of overbearing beauty.
Featuring an incredible debut performance from the central actor Trzebuchowska, this haunting
study of the past’s bearing on the present and potential theft of the future is essential viewing for
any student of the 20th Century, cinema or society. In effect then, everyone. ‘Important’ without
ever being dogmatic or over the top, the raw intensity of dreamlike, yet very real, interaction
between the characters operates as a journey through the human condition and the workings of
Focusing on the young Anna’s (Trzebuchowska) epiphany that she and her family are in fact Jewish,
and that she narrowly avoided death by being left on the church steps, she discovers from her newly
acquired Aunt Wanda (Kulesza) that her birth name is Ida and that she is the sole survivor of her
immediate family. The newly reunited aunt and niece then embark on something of a tour through
the darklands of memory and identity, and come to learn perhaps more than they wished about the
world and its workings.
Shot in a crisp polarity of nouvelle-vague style black and white, Ida has something of a timeless
quality about it. A classic jazz and early 1960s pop soundtrack filtering through the hotel bar scenes
add weight the juxtaposition of the austere and vaguely reproachful atmosphere of Anna’s convent
life with the free and easy colourful (and loud) world outside. Central to this contextualising of
opposing worldviews is the character of the charming beatnik jazz saxophonist who the newly
named Ida takes a reciprocal liking to. Representative of a Europe (and a world) attempting to come
to terms with war time atrocities, this jazz playing character creates a sweet sound of doubt in the
young woman’s mind.
But in many ways, it is the story of Wanda that is the most compelling. A successful magistrate and
prominent member of the ruling Socialist Party, she is a powerful symbol for how all of us, are to
various degrees, shaped and moulded by the past. A hard drinking and wittily acerbic character, she
acts as a very different form of teacher to the nuns in Anna’s convent.
Packing in an epic novel’s worth of universal truths and haunting imagery into its stark 80minutes,
Ida works with great subtlety in displaying contrasting opposing forces and insights into life of all
kinds. It is a film destined to work long in the memory and the imagination of its audience.
Film 5 Movie 3
My review of Bruce Robinson’s How to Get Ahead in Advertising (1989) is over at Flickering Myth.