Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Family and history collide in intimate, yet powerful 'Ida'

Who says size matters? At a mere 80 minutes, the Polish film Ida is a small miracle of economic storytelling, emotional complexity and astonishing scope. Co-written and directed by Pawel Pawlikowski, it is both an intimate, mostly two-character drama, and an unsparing and unsentimentalized look back on two tumultuous decades of Polish history as told over the course of a few days in the life of a young woman.

It's everything we want a film to be—focused, beautifully composed, surprising, and powerful.

Shot in expressive black-and-white by cinematographers Ryszard Lenczewski and Lukasz Zal, the film begins within the fortress-like walls of a rural convent. It's about 1962, and Anna (lovely and luminous Agata Trzebuchowska), an 18-year-old novice, is an orphan raised in the convent. She has never known anything else than the orderly routines and obedience of convent life; meals are taken in silence, discipline is strict, and the young novices regularly prostrate themselves on the stone floor of the chapel before their wooden Christ.

Anna is about to take her vows. But before she can, the Mother Superior tells her she must visit her only remaining relative, an aunt she never knew she had who lives in the city.

Aunt Wanda (a superb Agata Kulesza) is a tough, chain-smoking, hard-drinking, middle-aged court judge who sleeps with random men and has little interest in bonding with her niece. But she shows Anna an old photograph of her mother (Wanda's sister), tells the girl that her birth name was Ida—and drops the bombshell that their family was Jewish.

Their family history proves to be a harrowing tale, dating back to the Nazi invasion of Poland, and continuing into the severity of the Communist era. But director Pawlikowski reveals it only in small, potent bits, as the two women set off on an impromptu odyssey, first to the farmhouse where Anna's family once lived, and then on a quest to find her parents' unmarked grave.

Along the way, their fragile alliance is shattered and reformed, painful secrets are told, and a subtle portrait emerges of the troubled legacy left to a younger generation born out of chaos. (Read more)
Every beautifully composed frame film tells its own story.


  1. Went to see this today, Lisa. Thanks for recommending it. For me the most interesting character was the camera. Did you notice that every frame was from a still camera? It never panned until the last two frames. Very effective.

  2. Yes, the compositions are extremely beautiful. Every shot is like a still-life.