Ida is a Polish movie which won the 2015 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It is set in Poland in 1962. It tells of the story of a young woman is about to take her vows as a Catholic nun. She was orphaned as an infant after the German occupation in World War II. Before taking her vows she is mandated to see her Aunt who is her only living relative. Her Aunt ‘Wanda’ reveals to Ida that she is in fact Jewish and alludes to a great tragedy which befell on her family.
The duration is just 82 minutes and so little is said throughout, but the words which are spoken are necessary and poignant. Sometimes less is better and Ida is a great demonstration of the effectiveness of minimalist cinema. The road trip shared by the quiet, morally virtuous Ida and her verbose, narcissistic and promiscuous aunt played magnificently by Aguta Kulesza is captivating viewing. They complement each other wonderfully.
Ida’s Aunt continually tempts Ida to defrock herself as it were:
Wanda (Aunt) – You have such a nice dimple.
– Three when you smile.
– Men will go crazy.
– Do you have sinful thoughts sometimes?
Ida – Yes.
Wanda – About carnal love?
Ida – No
Wanda – That’s ashame.
– You should try
– Otherwise what sort of sacrifice are these vows of yours?
According to Wikipedia: Pawlikowski had difficulty in casting the role of Anna/Ida. After he’d interviewed more than 400 actresses, Agata Trzebuchowska was discovered by a friend of Pawlikowski’s, who saw her sitting in a cafe in Warsaw reading a book. She had no acting experience or plans to pursue an acting career. She agreed to meet with Pawlikowski because she was a fan of his film My Summer of Love (2004).
Agata Trzebuchowska’s delivers a very commendable debut performance, but Agata Kulesza (The aunt) is absolutely right in every part of her role as Aunt Wanda. She is so whole and complex inside a movie that doesn’t otherwise spend lengths on character’s backgrounds. She just draws you inside, whether you know her story, her past, her issues or not. A jaw-dropping performance.
Shot in gorgeous black and white, this film is a disconcerting beauty while remaining simple and pure, with a neat photography, elegant and appropriate framings highlighting the emptiness and the sadness of certain existences, and a careful treatment of natural light. Overall, I was touched by its delicateness, simplicity, great photography, splendid script and nuanced acting.
I am not a big fan of jazz but the choice of Coltrane’s jazz music for parts of this film really let you feel what jazz is all about, it was beautiful. I’ll leave you with this music from the film: