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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Ida Movie Review

Ida (Agata Trzebuchowska) is a young woman on the cusp of becoming a nun, in 1960's Poland. She has lived in a rural convent since originally being left there as a child, having known no other life. Before she can take the final step in the process, her Mother Superior tells her that she has a relative living in Gdansk and she orders Ida to go to her relative before taking her vows. Ida does not want to go, but realizes she has no choice.

Filmed in particularly bleak black-and-white, director Pawel Pawlikowski has created an intense mood piece dependent less upon events than an examination of two women whose lives have taken entirely different paths, but whose lives are inextricably intertwined.

When Ida finally meets her relative, the stark contrast between them is remarkable. Wanda (Agata Kulesza) is Ida's aunt. Their first meeting at Wanda's apartment lays out the contrast immediately. She answers the door with a cigarette dangling from her mouth. Inside, a gentleman is getting dressed, clearly after having engaged in sexual relations with Wanda. His quick departure indicates that they have known each other for hours, rather than years. Ida displays little reaction to any of this. There is no doubt that this is all foreign to her, but Ida hardly blinks. Her demeanor is even. It remains that way throughout.

Ida learns from her aunt that the reason she was raised in a convent is because she was sent there to be saved from murder during World War II. Ida's parents were murdered because they were Jews. Wanda's young daughter was also murdered. Together, Wanda and Ida set out to find out exactly what happened to their relatives and where they are buried. It's an odd couple buddy road movie, minus the usual humor.

What makes "Ida" special are the performances of Trzebuchowska and Kulesza, and the wonderful direction of Pawlikowski. Both actresses are excellent. Each of them shines in presenting their characters as nuanced and understated. Pawlikowski does his part by creating a mood that is at times somber, yet never oppressive. Many of the scenes would stand as great photography even if they were not part of a film. By the time of its close, you will be both disturbed by its content and yet calmly satisfied. It's a nice combination.

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