Dir: Pawel Pawlikowski
Academy Award Nominations: Foreign Language. Cinematography.
This is the first of this years ‘Foreign Language’ nominees that I’ve seen, and if it’s the only one I get a chance to watch before the ceremony I’m glad this was the one I got to see.
Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) is a novice nun on the verge of taking her vows, but is informed that she has one living relative, an aunt (Agata Kulesza), who she should meet before she does so. The aunt reveals that her real name is Ida and that she’s from a Jewish family, so together they set off on a trip to find their family’s unmarked grave. Ida has to face her past, and the outside world that she’s spent so long apart from.
The first thing you notice is that it’s filmed in black and white, and the now unusual 4:3 ratio. This leads to the shots often employing some unusual framing that makes you really watch as things often cross the edge of the frame, that would if shot in widescreen have been still within the frame. The audio too is not standard, with the film being very quiet at times, especially in the convent with silent meals, and with no background score the silence is even more noticeable. When conversations do occur, everything that’s said, though it may not be long, is packed with historical detail and meaning. As Ida’s origins are explored, we learn of terrible events from the war, and though certain characters may just say only a few lines, they’re always powerful statements.
Agata Trzebuchowska had no previous acting experience, but she’s very good. She was spotted in a cafe by a friend of the director after 400 actresses had been passed on, and I’d assume the first thing that was noticed about her was her eyes. The film really highlights them, and with the colour scheme it’s hard to see the distinction between her pupils and her irises so her eyes have a mesmerizing otherworldliness about them.
‘Ida’ is not like most films, from start to end it’s distinctive not just in look but also in pacing, and editing. It’s also unusually short, but tells a powerful tale of the aftermath of war. I can’t decide if it was uplifting or depressing, maybe it’s both, but it was certainly a worthwhile watch.