“Have you got sinful thoughts—about carnal love?“
As a film set in Poland of the 60s, Ida is an original, riveting masterpiece from Pawel Pawlikowski. Composed in monochromatic colors with sorrowful post-war tone, Ida is not just a plain road film (and a part-time mumblecore); it’s a timeless and cinematic spiritual journey.
Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) is an 18-yearl-old orphan raised in a convent and prepared to take her vows in a few days. For Anna, whose life is nowhere but in church, her life is devoted solely to God. A leap of faith comes to her when her Superior insists her to meet her only living relative—an aunt of her, Wanda (Agata Kulesza), a former state prosecutor whose life is now devoted to cigarettes and liquors. To her surprise, Wanda reveals Anna’s true identity; that her true name is Ida Lebenstein and that she is a daughter of Jewish parent killed during the WWII, therefore makes her a Jew as well.
Such revelation leads Anna a.k.a Ida and her aunt to a return to a village where, they believe, Ida’s parents are killed. As they try to seek out more information about it, secrets about their own pasts start to unravel and threats their future. The film portrays this quest as a black and white road trip presented in an ambivalent manner that matters. From a film that tries to seek out something in the past, Ida suddenly takes a curved turn to question the essence of life of this cynical couple.
Ida is very enlightening in visuals. Pictured in a vintage aspect ratio with constantly long shots and minimum use of dialogues, every detail in Ida matters. Even small dialogues, like Ida saying “God is everywhere” or Wanda questioning Ida “have you got sinful thoughts—about carnal love?” are beyond meaningful. Pawlikowski makes every line responsible to the direct of the plot. Putting a pious believer like Ida in and contrasting her with opposite, Aunt Wanda, is a proof that Ida is beautifully crafted; thanks to Pawlikowski and Rebecca Lenkiewicz. Through the road film, we learn a thorough character studies of these two female characters—too deep a character study that sometimes it feels bitter.
This film also highlights the condition in Poland following WWII—dark and gloomy atmosphere lingers everywhere in this film; and static shots of natural beauty sharpens the look of it. All in all, it’s a deep insight of a country that tries to question its existence through two of its residents who also questions their current life (kudos to both devoted actress who brings lights to the performance). In the end, we learns something—defying what we believe is difficult, but there’s more we can do than just question it—proving Ida as one of the best this year and a landmark in Polish film, not just a homage to the country’s darkest past.
Drama Directed by: Pawel Pawlikowski Written by: Pawel Pawlikowski, Rebecca Lenkiewicz Running Time: 8o mins Starred by: Agata Kulesza, Agata Trzebuchowska, Dawid Ogrodnik