Set in Poland in 1962 Sister Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) is about to take her final vows and become a fully-fledged Catholic nun. Never knowing her parents, Anna is under the illusion that her parents died when she was young and that she grew up as a Catholic, but as the ceremony nears, the Mother Superior (Halina Skoczynska) suggests that she go and visit her only remaining relative.
Anna reluctantly travels away from the convent and soon finds herself face to face with her Aunt – Wanda Gruz (Agata Kulesza), an alcoholic magistrate. After an awkward meeting, Wanda is horrified that Anna knows nothing about her past and soon tells her that she is in fact Jewish, is named Ida Lebenstein and that her entire family was killed during the Holocaust. Not one hundred per cent sure where the bodies are buried, Wanda and Ida go on a journey of self-discovery.
Ida is not the kind of film that everybody will enjoy. It’s the kind of film that you need to watch and then go away and savor. Immediately after the film finishes, you realise that director Pawel Pawilowski has made Ida a bleak affair, but it is only after you have a chance to sit down and think about the film that you have just seen that you realise that this is a beautifully shot film that needs its bleakness to capture its true emotion.
Everything about this film is dark. Pawel Pawlikowski and cinematographer Lukasz Zal bring a dark foreboding feel to Ida In most shots, it is raining or foggy and that matches the slow-paced dreary script that plays with complete suspense despite its pace. It is the look of the film that makes it so beautiful in a dark kind of way.
The other powerful element of this film is the screenplay. There is no way you can ever predict what is going to happen next and to the credit of the screenplay, the film continues to build in suspense as the film goes on. The more Ida uncovers, the more the audience finds themselves on edge as she struggles to piece together her past, look after her fragile aunt and battle with her own spiritual demons now that she has learned that she is Jewish. Pawilkowski even allows the film and its characters to take some really unexpected turns that are guaranteed to shock.
Come Oscar time, Ida deserves to be talked about as a film that should be nominated; likewise, its two stars. Agata Trzebuchowska puts in one of best debut performances for an actress ever and she is guaranteed to become hot property for producers over the next few years. She is well-matched with Agata Kulesza, who puts in a seasoned performance and brilliantly portrays the troubled Wanda in a really memorable way.
With so many films coming out each year that focus on the Holocaust, sometimes they seem to lose their impact. Ida isn’t one of those films though; the impact hits hard and this is a film that will be long remembered after the closing credits have rolled.
Directors: Pawel Pawlikowski
Starring: Agata Kulesza, Agata Trzebuchowski
Release Date: 18th October, 2013