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  • While French artsy-critic magazine "telerama" gave it an ecstatic review, there is one thing I wasn't prepared for: the quality of the images. Set in an almost-but-not-quite faded black and white, of about completely square format, I was sure the movie, set and shot in Poland, was using some obscure last reels of some obscure special negatives, developed in a forgotten cold-war era lab... Well, according to the credits, that was all digital, from start to finish. All the haters of DDD processes out there (I'm one of them), we can now be assured the modern film-maker has today the ability to really work on grain, under-exposure, blurred shadows and all that; Wiene, Murneau, Dreyer, Eisenstein and Lang be damned.

    I was stunned. This, and the quite audacious camera angles, the ever so close close-ups that only half a face remains visible. I even noticed what should be considered an error (walking in the forest, you only see the characters up from their ankles, missing their feet labouring trough the undergrowth)... And it just works because of the richness of the various tree trunk's winter greys.

    Add to that the settings, the aesthetics of semi-derelict post-war communist décor, and the odd 'innocent girl meets nice boy' arch-cute scene, but that was to be expected from the start, even if it is just about perfect. The Hotel is... A graphic masterpiece in itself.

    So yeah, the movie is worth it's weight on that alone already, and then there is Agata Kulesza, so absolutely right every part of her role as Aunt Wanda, so whole and complex inside a movie that doesn't otherwise spend lengths on character's backgrounds that she just draws you inside, whether you know her story, her past, her issues or not. A jaw-dropping performance.

    This movie should not be called Ida, but Wanda.
  • ned-1-56699515 May 2014
    Ida is magnificent, it will stay with me a long time. The narrative is powerfully compelling and yet if it had been a non-narrative film I would have been spellbound by the images alone. They should make a coffee table book of stills from it. Huge emotional issues are dealt with in a remarkably understated, unsentimental, but appropriate way. The use of music (often my pet peeve in these days of Hollywood formula) is enlightened and illustrative. I don't think the ending is ambiguous, I'm not sure the writer who wrote that understood it. Perhaps there is something slightly facile about the way things wrap up in the last 15 minutes of the film, but this is only in comparison with how beautifully they are laid out before that. Enough, this is not really a review, it is an exhortation - Go see Ida!
  • It's so rare that a work of art whether film or dance or theater or visual art can live up to the superlative reviews and the gushing from critics, but IDA is such a work. A relatively short film of only 80 minutes that captures the near past, present and future of Europe in what amounts to a road movie with only two characters. IDA shatters all expectations by making the personal truly political. In every way director Pawel Pawlikowski, in his first native language film, captures who we are and where we are going in a story that takes place in only a matter of days. This is art of the highest order that requires time and processing but so well worth the adventure.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I knew that I was going to love Ida from the opening shot. It is a shot of the beautiful Ida, the main character played by Agata Trzebuchowska, at the bottom left of the screen, outside surrounding her in the frame is the depressing back drop of post World War II, 1960s Poland. Let's forget for a moment the fact that every single shot in Ida looks like a beautiful portrait, the shot also wonderfully sets up the tone for the rest of the film.

    Ida is a nun who is about to take her final vows when she finds out that she is actually Jewish and that her parents hid her at a nunnery at the end of the war. Ida then meets her aunt and goes across the country, experiencing life outside of the church and trying to find out where her Jewish parents are buried. Both the actresses who play Ida and her aunt, Wanda, are incredible. Agata Trzebuchowska plays Ida with such fragility and innocence while Agata Kulesza, who plays Wanda, plays her character as a woman who has been beaten down by life, and as a result has become an alcoholic.

    The rest of the performances in the film reflect the state of mind of Poland during that time period. I would imagine that some people may find the style of this movie bleak, but that is always the point. There is one moment when the film has some levity and it is in a scene when Ida is back at the nunnery after being out in the world. All of the nuns are eating dinner very somberly, and Ida lets out a bit of a giggle. It is after she has experienced new things, and she now realizes that maybe she doesn't want to be a nun. There is never any dialogue to suggest that she is thinking this, it is done visually in the scene.

    The language of this film is very visual. Even though it is in Polish, the dialogue isn't very vital. Director Pawel Pawlikowski has patience with the shots and with the editing. There is a scene shot in a wide shot where Ida and her aunt, Wanda, are talking about where her parents might be. Eventually, Wanda leaves the shot. Most films would cut away with Wanda and follow her to where she is going, but the shot stays on Ida. It visually shows her as an orphan, she has nobody, except this aunt, whom she has only just met.

    The ending of Ida is probably one of the most satisfying I've ever seen. As an audience member watching this movie you want certain conclusions for her character, without giving away any of the plot. Pawel Pawlikowski is a smart director to only answer a few, but leave some questions open for interpretation. But in the end, we know Ida has changed, and she is going to go out there and live her life. I think this film will definitely be a front runner for next years Oscars in the Best Foreign Picture category.
  • Ida was a dark somber tragic story expressed perfectly in film.

    I am not a big fan of black and white "art" movies done for effect, except the old black and white movies, but Ida was filmed so perfectly, and the stark black and white was so integral to the story and feeling of the movie it was really perfect.

    I am not a big fan of jazz either, but again, the choice of Coltrane's jazz music for parts of this film really let you feel what jazz is all about, it was beautiful.

    The story was of an orphan nun who is preparing to take her final vows to God. The Mother Superior calls her in and tells her about who she is. Ida grew up not knowing her name or anything about her family. Ida finds that she has an aunt nearby and is told to go to see her before taking her vows.

    The slow, heavy and deliberate pace of the movie express the story so perfectly, and there is no pandering or cheap shots, the movie is beautifully done. This is a story that is not for everyone, or every time, but I am glad it was made and that I saw it.

    I have to give it a 10/10 for pure craftsmanship and cinematic perfection.
  • jadepietro23 June 2014
    This film is recommended.

    Anna grew up in a Catholic orphanage, never knowing her parents. Deeply religious, she is slated to become a nun within a few weeks. However, before taking her vows, Anna must leave the convent and visit her only living relative, a cold and distant aunt. Upon their first meeting, she is told that she is really Ida, a Jewish niece. So begins their relationship and journey to find her past and specifically, her parent's unmarked graves.

    With an unusually short film length of less than 90 minutes, Ida is an extremely well made film, sensitively directed by Pawel Pawlikowski. Under the backdrop of 1960's Poland, the film's premise of presenting contrasting religions and lifestyles is its main attraction. The screenplay by the director and Rebecca Lenkiewicz has much to say and tells its linear narrative concisely and without any flourish.  Ida is a fine film that could have been a great film had its script added more dimension to its central character. Anna, or Ida, is mainly a saintly conduit, a devout presence who never seems to be real in any sense. She begins as an enigma and, surprisingly, rarely displays any strong emotional reaction when confronted with disturbing news.

    Agata Trzebuchowska plays Ida / Anna and she is physically right for the role. The actress invests the right degree of innocence and vulnerability. Even more effective is Agata Kulesza as Ida's bitter and alcoholic Aunt Wanda. Her role has far more depth and the actress makes subtle choices in underplaying the anger and hostility within her complex character. It is a strong and memorable performance.

    The film, beautifully photographed by Ryszard Lenczewski and Lukasz Zal, might have a smaller budget than most movies these days, but one never notices any lapse in quality as production values are of the highest caliber. With lovely black & white images and a lyrical score by Kristian Eidnes Andersen, Ida is superior filmmaking, even if some of the transitions and editing seems slightly abrupt. The film effectively deals with powerful themes that will resonate with any serious film-goer and deserves to be seen. GRADE: B

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  • Ida (2013) is a Polish film co-written and directed by Pawel Pawlikowski. This brilliant film follows a few days in the life of Anna, a young novitiate nun. Anna has been raised in a convent, and she plans to take her vows and stay in the convent for the rest of her life.

    However, before this can take place, the mother superior sends her to meet her only living relative, a woman named Wanda.

    The pair could not be less similar. Ida is quiet, gentle, thoughtful, and shy. Her aunt is tough as nails--she has real power as a judge, and she knows how to use it. She's a heavy drinker and a heavy smoker. She's also a Jew.

    In the first few minutes of the movie, Anna learns that she's Jewish. As a very young girl, she was taken to the convent, where the nuns raised her. (Her real name is Ida, which is why that's the title of the film.)

    Wanda and Anna set out to return to their rural home, to solve the mystery of what happened to their family 20 years earlier. Why did Ida survive, when her family--other than Wanda--did not?

    This film, shot in black & white, is superbly constructed on every dimension. The plot is tight, and the acting is incredible. Agata Kulesza (Wanda) and Agata Trzebuchowska (Anna/Ida), are immensely talented actors.

    The cinematography is incomparable. My wife and I felt as if any frame--from the beginning to the end of the movie--would make a great still photograph.

    Pawlikowski knows how to focus on his main actors, but he also lets us know that, while the protagonists are involved in heartbreaking drama, the rest of the world is going about its business around them.

    This is a grim film. Anna's life is restricted by her piety. Wanda's life is constricted by alcohol and--it would appear--by lack of any close personal relationships. Everyone in Poland is restricted by horrible memories, dark secrets, and Soviet domination.

    Grim or not, this is a film you shouldn't pass up if you care about great cinema. We saw it on a large screen at the LittleTheatre in Rochester, NY. However, it will work well enough on DVD. Don't miss it.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is one of those cinema experiences which inevitably lead me into complete incoherence. There is no way I can effectively quantify or qualify the feelings engendered by the film, so I'll just jot down some more or less random impressions:

    This is, literally and figuratively, a very quiet movie. The themes are huge, but the presentation is never strident. The arguments are very calmly placed in front of us, there is no special pleading; and the score reflects this. There was a very slight, low frequency hum pervading one of the later reels in the print I saw at the Clay Theater, which was driving me slightly barmy: I can't remember the last movie I've seen in which I would have noticed it.

    What we have here is one of those works of art which makes me want to revisit other works of art. The opening sequence, of novitiates carrying a sculpture of Jesus into a snow-filled courtyard, reminded me Anton Corbijn's photography for Joy Division's Closer album, and his cinematography of their "Atmosphere" video. At various points I made silent vows to listen to Coltrane's Giant Steps, reread Hesse's Narciss und Goldmund, and listen to Mozart's "Jupiter" Symphony, which, oddly enough, I woke up to this morning.

    In Something Like an Autobiography, Akira Kurosawa expresses concern for the plight of Takashi Shimura, a wonderful actor, who Kurosawa felt was overshadowed by Toshiro Mifune in Drunken Angel. Something analogous occurred to me here: Agata Kulesza turns in a yeoman-like performance as the slightly jaded Wanda: but Agata Trzebuchowska absolutely seizes the camera, and never lets it go. She is just compulsively watchable.

    And lastly, if I ever commit suicide, I will definitely be using the "Jupiter" Symphony as a soundtrack.
  • This b&w film is engraved in my memory.

    The producer told her audience at the Guanajuato International Film Festival (Mexico) that finding funding for a b&w film took a long time. How wise she and the director were to hold out because b&w gives the film its period feel (the events occur 1961-62).

    The story, occasionally too linear, is believable overall, at times all too believable. Its subtext: coming of age, Communism's excesses in Poland, peasant-Jewish relations during the Holocaust, worldliness vs. faith. And yes, they all work.

    The aunt is played by a justly renowned Polish actress, the novice nun by an amateur who despite the film's success in Poland doesn't want to continue to act.

    I don't want to spill over into spoilers, will sum up by saying that viewers will see a complex film simply told, set during Poland's painful post-war years and a no-holds-barred look at how various Poles treated Jews during the Second World War.

    Ida played to large audiences in Poland where the film was generally praised, despite receiving flak from a few detractors as either anti-Polish or anti-Jewish, a fact reinforcing my view that the film owes part of its power to avoiding stereotypes. A compelling, technically excellent film worth the care lavished on it.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Ida" is a film that I should have loved since the story idea was very, very strong. Yet, inexplicably, the film managed to lose me due to the zombie-like acting and the overall lack of energy. It's a darn shame--I really wanted to like this film.

    The title character is a novice at a nunnery at around 1960 in Poland She's planning on becoming a full-fledged nun but has yet to take her final vows. However, before this ceremony can occur, the Reverend Mother calls her to her office. Although Ida was raised in an orphanage, it seems that she DOES have one family member--an aunt who refused to take her in when she needed a home. Now the head of the nunnery wants Ida to make contact with the aunt. This is an odd request--and it makes sense once she meets this lady. It turns out that the reason Ida was an orphan was that her parents were Jews and were murdered during the Holocaust...and this aunt is the only other survivor in the family. The aunt is a bit screwed up and drinks a lot, but the two manage to spend time getting to know each other. Then, they both go off on a trek to learn the fates of Ida's parents--something that others really don't want to discuss. After all, many of these folks had helped the Nazis track down the Jews or even killed them for the Nazis. During all this, Ida remains steadfast in her desire to become a nun...that is until very late in the film when she begins to act a bit inexplicably.

    The film has one of the better story ideas I can recall about the Holocaust--mostly because it's so novel. However, the story managed to make very little of this due to the odd decision to have almost zero energy in the film. As for the actress playing Ida, I doubt if she spoke for more than about two minutes during the film and could be described almost as if she's sleepwalking throughout the picture. As for the aunt, she has some feeling but drowns it in booze--and her feelings, while present, are still very restrained--too restrained. The overall feeling of this under-emoting and stark black & white cinematography is underwhelming to say the least. This film SHOULD have been very hard-hitting and intense. Instead, it just limps to a conclusion that simply left me baffled. Not a terrible film by any means but one that left me disappointed and frustrated.
  • simplicity, great photographs, splendid script. at first sigh, an old fashion movie. in fact, wise manner to use the legacy of impressive tradition and a great director who use, in same measure, with same precision, tension, poetry of images, atmosphere of period, cultural roots. it is a reflection occasion about origins, truth, faith and choices. a profound Polish story who reflects the identity search of an entire continent. it is , certainly, a rare gem. the cause is not only beauty of photography or admirable acting but a special flavor who remains after its end as a delicate feeling. a young woman and the courage to become here self. that is all. in skin of seductive music.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This film was actually a truly big player at awards ceremonies all over the planet. It won honors in Germany, Spain, England, North America and Poland of course. At the Polish Film Awards it won Best Film, Actress (which actually went to the main character's aunt) and Director while scoring a few more nominations. Probably, as a result of that, it is also the Polish submission for the Foreign Language category at next year's Academy Awards. We will see how far it gets there.

    We follow the paths of a young woman a few days before her vow, i.e. before becoming a nun. She's stuck between her faith and between temptation that lurks around the corner. And as if that wasn't enough already, she also finds out she is Jewish. As a consequence, she meets her Jewish aunt (a renowned judge before she retired) and the two make a road trip in order to find information about the main character's deceased parents. She meets a musician that she finds very attractive and the aunt isn't too uninterested in men either, gently speaking.

    For Agata Trzebuchowska it is the very first role and she starts to prove that there is some acting talent behind that beautiful face. The director is Pawel Pawlikowski and this is only his second project roughly 10 years after the well-known "Summer of Love". After working with Ethan Hawke, Kristin Scott Thomas, Paddy Considine and Emily Blunt, he is back to local productions in Poland.

    However, I cannot say that i enjoyed this film a lot. It's all too bleak and uninteresting for my taste. None of the characters have you really feel with them and you don't hate them either. You just don't get involved really, which is the one of worst things that can happen. I usually like black-and-white films, but even with being considerably shorter than 90 minutes this film started to drag on several occasions. The ending is open. we see the main character walk away and it is unclear if she chooses the path of celibacy or away from the monastery. The aunt's death scene felt really awkward to me as she did not seem to be somebody who would commit suicide at all. It just did not fit in my opinion. Unfortunately there is too many criticisms which let me come to the final verdict that I would not recommend watching this movie. Still I'm curious if it gets the Academy Award nomination next year and if it possibly has the chance to win. For me it has not.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    'Ida' is Polish director Pawil Palikowski's latest contribution to the canon of Holocaust and post-Holocaust 'dramaturgy'. Lasting a brief 80 minutes, 'Ida' is shot in bleak black and white and has been likened to the style of the French New Wave and their iconic 'progenitor', Robert Bresson. The film has garnered one accolade after another and one has to search far and wide before digging up any significant critical commentary. Nonetheless, I will join those few who refuse to jump on the proverbial bandwagon, and praise this film as if it's the second coming of 'Grand Illusion'.

    Set in Soviet-controlled Poland in 1962, 'Ida' is the tale of Anna, a young woman who has lived in a convent all her life and on the verge of taking her vows as a nun. Before allowing her to prepare for the ordination, the mother superior informs Anna (who has been sheltered her entire life) to meet her long-lost aunt, ignoring the fact that such a meeting could be quite traumatizing.

    Nonetheless, given the extraordinary nature of Anna's parentage, the mother superior perhaps believes that meeting the aunt would be the proper thing to do, vis-à-vis the Church. It turns out that Anna's birth name was Ida Lebenstein and she was the lone survivor of a Jewish family murdered during the Holocaust. This information is confided to her by her Aunt Wanda, who never revealed her identity to her niece, in all the years she was at the convent.

    The Ida plot concerns Ida's quest to learn the fate of her parents and their final resting place. The contrast between the idealistic Ida and cynical, jaded Wanda, couldn't have been put more succinctly put, when a sarcastic Wanda describes the difference between the two, to Anna: "I'm the slut and you're the saint!"

    On the surface, Wanda appears to be a character we haven't seen before: a former state prosecutor, now working as a Judge in a post-Stalinist Poland, who also happens to be Jewish. But despite her semi-prominent position in the Communist party, nothing can help her feel better about herself. In addition to occasionally having indiscriminate dalliances with men, she also has a bad drinking problem. In one telling scene, she's arrested for drunk driving and pulls rank on the local police official who has been processing the arrest, threatening severe repercussions, which could lead to his dismissal (or perhaps something far worse).

    Wanda's self-destructive attitude is similar to the character Sol Nazerman, played by Rod Steiger in the 1965 Post-Holocaust drama, 'The Pawnbroker'. Both are 'damaged goods' as a result of their experiences during the Holocaust. Nazerman becomes a total misanthrope but Wanda expresses her contempt through her sarcasm. One reviewer (Dennis Schwartz) aptly describes 'The Pawnbroker' as "an unpleasant, solemn and overwrought melodrama about an embittered Jewish Holocaust survivor." This description can also be applied to Wanda. The problem with Palikowski's strategy here is that he wants credit for merely pointing out the OBVIOUS: the Holocaust was a terrible thing and in some cases, had immense, deleterious effects on the survivors. And Palikowski goes further by attempting to manipulate our emotions by having his one-note character (SUPER SPOILERS AHEAD), jump out the window (in effect, Palikowski can't resist 'hitting us over the head', by again stating the obvious: 'you see how bad it was for Holocaust survivors! She even jumped out the window!).

    Just as plenty of Jewish people will find this dour portrait of survivor guilt to be obvious (and perhaps heavy-handed), those of Polish heritage may feel equally short-changed. With any good melodrama, you cannot have a tragic victim without a sinister villain. The skimpy way, however, in which Palikowski references the Holocaust may play into a simplistic notion of collective responsibility for Polish anti-semitism during and after World War II. But there were indeed isolated acts of Polish people attempting to help Jews during the Nazi Occupation as well as many Polish victims themselves, at the hands of the Nazis.

    After searching for the father, Anna and Wanda discover that it was the son who murdered Anna's family. All we know that he's a villain who killed the family to take over the deed to the house. The narrative suffers from the lack of development of a complex antagonist as we never really get to know much about the son or the rest of the family. Instead, the incident is used to simply explain Wanda's guilt (the revelation of how Wanda's son--who she gave to her sister--is murdered, is perhaps the last straw, that leads her to do herself in!) as well as raising another issue: Anna's decision to forgive her family's murderer (she agrees not to contest the claim to the property in exchange to finding out where her family is buried!).

    As for how Palikowski resolves Anna's issues can be interpreted in differing ways. I found it difficult to believe that Anna would suddenly give into her carnal desires given her sheltered upbringing. It makes for a good movie to have a love scene, but the odds that such an idealistic woman would suddenly 'come of age' (albeit so briefly), remains questionable. Does Anna's decision to return to her faith represent a triumph for her—a sticking to one's guns, so to speak? In my view, Palikowski wants us to view her return to the church as a second tragedy. Note how she so flippantly dismisses her lover's idyllic picture of the future. For Anna, marriage and family life can only lead to a mundane existence; so a return to cloistered life, now appears mandatory.

    'Ida' is replete with powerful visual images and raises important questions about faith, guilt and forgiveness. This is all at the expense of important character development as well as a tendency toward melodramatic excess. In short, I wanted more.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Poland, 1962. Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska), a novitiate in a convent, is told by her mother superior that she must meet her only living relative before she takes her vows. So the pretty but shy soon to be nun ventures from her convent with a broken, beaten up suitcase held together by a belt. When she arrives at her Aunt Wanda's apartment, she's greeted by a woman in her forties smoking a cigarette and wearing a bathrobe, her hair disheveled, while a man gets dressed in the background. Thus the film highlights the contrast between the sheltered Anna and her cynical, hard drinking, sexually promiscuous aunt. And right after meeting for the first time, Wanda tells Anna bluntly that she is Jewish by birth. Anna, it turns out, was born Ida Lebenstein, but having grown up in an orphanage, has no memory of her family and no idea that she is Jewish. Wanda doesn't know exactly what became of Anna's/Ida's family but assumes that they were murdered by their farming neighbors.

    Eventually we will also learn more about Wanda's past. In the 1950s she was a famous prosecutor, known as Red Wanda for having sent "enemies of the people" to the firing squads. But in the present, De-Stalinization has hit Poland, she is minor magistrate, politically marginalized. Anna and Wanda decide to take a road trip to find out what happened to Ida's parents. Along the way they pick up a handsome hitchhiking musician (Dawid Ogrodnik). Eventually, aunt and niece will learn the terrible fate of their family.

    The movie is enticing for most of the times, but the end (without revealing a lot of it) is quite unsatisfying. What the audience wants to know is whether, after the terrible revelations, Ida will leave or not her religious life. The director (SPOILERS AHEAD) takes the easiest choice: basically he gives us two endings with the two possibilities. As Wanda, Agata Kulesza dominates the screen, while director Pawel Pawlikowski deliberately keeps Anna/Ida under wraps as an enigma. Pawlikowski has some questionable artsy tendencies as a director, like using takes that are longer than needed or having the camera close up for several seconds on a character as he or she does nothing. And there are several unexplained bits in the movie, like why aunt Wanda didn't adopt Ida when she was a child, a time when Wanda was a very successful official. The stark black-and-white photography is a plus.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    If you want to learn something from this movie, forget about it. The beauty of the pictures does not hide the pure truth behind the story tale. The Ida is a fiction which is trying to glorify "the blood prosecutor" Helena Wolinska, the old "friend" of the Director. The truth about her is terrified to any "normal human being" her name on the arrest order was for her victim as a death sentence before the court even start the trial. She was not a nice person as Mr Pawlikowski is trying to portrait "Wanda", she was a cold blooded murderer and she never paid for her crimes. She died peacefully in Oxford, UK in 2008, till 2006 she was receiving high military pension from Poland as the soviet erected colonel of polish peoples' army. She was a pure Communist who does not understand her own crimes. Her all story about the way she survived the WWII was also lying, she claimed that she jumps from the train, on her way to the Treblinka camp, but there are no evidence in Germans files to confirm it, but there were people who saw her in the Soviet Union during the time she claimed, she was in Getto. She never likes to talk about her past, it was too painful, or it was too terrible for normal people to hear it?

    Someone in Poland just after Oscars wrote a note: " in 1952 I was 4 years old, when they took my dad, the Polish Army officer, Helena Wolinska signed his warrant, I do not know when and where my dad died, but he never returned after this November night. When my mother asks Mrs Wolinska about him in March 1953, she refused to talk to her - because Joseph Stalin just died, and for Mrs Wolinska it was the worst day of her life. It is 62 years since I last time saw my father and I am an old man now, but I still do not know where he was buried, I hope I will find this before I died. I hope"

    If you like the Ida, please think about the Wanda - Helena true victims, and check her first, who she was and what she did. Do not ignore the facts, as she did.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Don't be insulted, it's a nice movie, it's shot and designed very well, characters are nicely written, actors are beautiful, and the script is well constructed. So what's the issue, exactly this review's title, from my perspective, it seems that the filmmakers wanted an Oscar so bad (I don't blame them, who doesn't) that they just used every element they could fit into this story that is known to give a movie better chance at winning. It's about a young orphan novitiate nun who is about to take her vows when suddenly she discovers that she is descended of a Jewish family that was murdered by the Nazis, and during the same journey she starts to have feelings towards a Jazz musician and begins to doubt whether being a nun is really the path she wants. Both elements are severely overplayed, and both are elements are the very foundation of this movie. I cannot but think that Ida was not made so that the filmmaker deliver to us a vision that he wants to share, but instead was designed specifically to allure to film festivals and awards committees.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The beautiful photography - in Ansel Adams shades of treys to blacks - and insistence created through pacing that you pause - come to a full stop -work for these two wonderful actresses and the subject matter. The director sets up the scene to that the viewer cannot avoid seeing the faces and the settings, and consider what is happening now and what happened in the past -

    Like another reviewer, I came away wondering why wasn't it called "Wanda" - the aunt being one of the most complex characters you are likely to encounter in modern film. But Ida provides the open eyes

    ...who in the end incorporates at least some of her aunt's spirit ...
  • I've just watched Ida and it left me devastated, but not because of the topic or something. Beside the cinematography (which is also not without its flaws) and the perfect soundtrack, the movie is a mess. You will see some beautiful pictures with jazz and classical music in the background, but I guess that browsing an album of the stills while listening to a CD would suffice if you're so much into them. But what's actually wrong with this movie?

    First, the Holocaust topic is so over-exploited and if you want to make a good movie dealing with that thematic you need either an extraordinary approach or a very special point to make in order to get a movie which is not too commonplace. This one has neither of both. The story is okay, no more, no less, but it does not suffice to cover up for the wrongdoings. I've been a big fan of the Polish cinema (although not Polish at all) and my impression always was that filmmakers managed to deal with such sensitive topics as national identity, generation gap, Holocaust, Christian faith, gender, socialism or post WWII trauma in such a subtle and elegant way, that after watching a movie I can't stop asking myself questions about my own existence and ponder on the movie experience. This one only left the "so what" expression on my face.

    Secondly, the movie tries to deal with all the sensitive topics but is somehow delayed couple of decades. I guess Pawel Pawlikowski just liked the novel so much, that he wanted to see it on screen. He probably admired the filmmakers of the Polish film school and did it in the same fashion as they did at their time half a century ago (topics, aesthetics). The main difference is that at their time the questions this movie tries to raise were building on recent events. 2013 is simply too late and to imitate so shamelessly makes Pawlikowski's attempt to seem pathetic.

    To understand, what I mean, watch "Pasażerka", 1963 Munk's masterpiece. A movie set in a concentration camp, but the Holocaust is not the main theme, rather it is the nature of human relationships and the interaction of characters. Also b&w, very Polish, very beautiful and enigmatic. Incomplete due to Munk's premature death, whole sequences are missing and since nobody knew what the original director's intention was, the movie is left unedited at these places, only with stills and voice- over commentary. That is original and memorable, but I can't say the same for "Ida". "Ida" reminds me rather of a German movie: boring, claiming to have some idea which the characters explicitly manifest with blank faces and no intonation. And the main theme is always Holocaust or WWII, because that's ze Germans' big lunacy, for which they think everybody hates them, although nobody really blames them nowadays.

    Thirdly, the action is supposed to take place in the 60s or so. However, everything in the mise-en-scène reminds us that it is filmed in our days. The places they visited such as the hotel are supposed to be brand new at that time. Because that is what the socialist regime was to be proud of. They rebuilt the country after the war. Or if the party hadn't yet reached these God-forgotten places, we should have at least seen the remains of the prewar settings. What we see is typical post-communist decaying buildings and ambient, evoking socialist nostalgia and not necessarily lacking charm, but completely out of time and place. As is for the car Wanda drives. She is supposed to drive a shiny, brand new model, not that jalopy.

    I guess this anachronistic elements forced the b&w cinematography. It seems classy, old, and covers the flaws of the mise-en-scène at least to a certain extent. This way you can almost immerse in the 60s atmosphere, I guess. As for the blank spaces over the heads of the characters I doubt it was some aesthetic whim, but sly and cheap way to conceal the clues of the 2010s present. The camera pointing to the sky reminds me of an amateur short movie some friends of mine made couple of years ago. They did it for three days in winter, but wanted some "summer" sequences and pointed the camera to the sky, in order to get the snow on the ground out of sight.

    Low budget is really not an option if you want to make a movie about the past. You need to think about all the details and, hence, a large-scale budget to cover all the expenses. If you are on a shoe- string budget with 10 people crew, do something simple, not a historic drama.

    The acting is okay. In contrast to most of the other reviews, I liked the performance of the actress playing Ida more than the one that played the aunt, since in Ida's reactions I could read all the words she left unspoken. The real problem was the complete lack of character development: the movie ended where it started, except for that both women had a revelation that a certain way of life is not really fulfilling. And the way they got their revelations was not even interesting. It seemed to me as if the crew was filming, they ran out of money, got bored or too cold and said "Oh come on, let's finish already, nobody is going to watch it to the end anyways."

    In sum, I don't get what is all the excitement about this movie and why it got so many awards? It is surely watchable, but far from masterpiece or so.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A thundering herd of critics and viewers have wildly applauded the beauties and virtues of the movie "Ida." With so much rapture being expressed with such intensity from so many people it is daunting to offer the slightest criticism of this movie. Nonetheless, I will perform the very under-appreciated service of giving "Ida" a balanced review.

    On the plus side, the cinematography is lovely. Shot in austere black and white, impeccably framed and endlessly atmospheric, the movie is a visual marvel. The stark simplicity of the images complements perfectly both the subject matter and the locations chosen for the film.

    The acting is generally good, with Agata Kulesza's magnificent portrayal of Ida's aunt taking top honors here. Ms. Kulesza's exploration of a woman sliding quickly into multiple forms of self abuse -- most notably alcoholism, soulless promiscuity and depression -- is extremely compelling and provides the principal reason to see this movie. Haunted by the past (the Holocaust, in particular) and unable to live with the present, Kulesza's tortured character is luminously dark, dark, dark.

    Much less felicitous, in my opinion, is Agata Trzebuchowska's portrayal of the lead character, Ida. How hard is it, I wonder, to act repressed, timid and holier-than-thou, to look down at the floor and away from other people, in scene after scene? Ms. Trzebuchowska plays her part well but my point would be that her part lacks depth and nuance; as a result, Trzebuchowska's acting comes across as rather rote and predictable. Not bad acting, mind you, but hardly deserving of the ecstatic praise that has been heaped upon it.

    The story is fine so long as it revolves around the interactions between the worldly, depraved and depressed Aunt and her virtuous, repressed niece-nun. The various scenes in the convent where Ida usually resides are also deftly handled with all of the restraint they require. But in the last quarter of the film when Ida takes a flier on all sorts of depravities better suited to her infamous aunt the whole enterprise starts to go off the rails. There's a switch from "virtue" to "vice" and then back again, apparently, to "virtue" that seems simultaneously pointless and predictable. We have no warning that Ida is going to take this walk on the wild side but, despite the lack of warning, it seems obvious when it happens.

    So to conclude, there is much to admire in this movie and it is certainly worth seeing and supporting. But to suggest that "Ida" is the cinematographic equivalent of Nirvana, as so many reviewers have done, is to inflate the accomplishments of the director, screenwriter and actors well beyond their actual scope. It's a movie that could have been great but that somehow couldn't bear to steer clear of conventional devices to move the plot along. By putting sex and death scenes in a film that actually demanded their exclusion, the screenwriter greatly compromised an otherwise promising work. Too bad, but there it is...
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A beautiful film on faith, freedom and force.

    It's the story of a nun who learns that she was of a different religion and explores the whereabouts of her parents grave along with a relative. The exploration speaks for itself and helps the girl Anna/Ida in understanding faith and life deeper. Anna as she was referred to, learns that she is actually Ida Lebenstein and even after understanding what she really was, she prepares herself to take the vows she wanted to take before.

    After going through events that make her understand that life is much bigger than the veil she wore, she decides that she is not yet ready for that. Then, finally comes a point where she has to choose the life of a normal girl, that is get married and have family etc. She gets up and walks off wearing the dress she put off for a while. So the transition speaks so many things. It speaks I would say of freedom of the girl. Why should a girl be forced to commit something. Can a life be non-committal, can a life be drifting in faith. And as I was asked a question by my friend Raghuveer "How would a life be of a drifter, will drifters be respected?"

    Based in the early 1960's the production design is immaculate. The music which was sporadic left me haunting. The music made me explore John Coltrane and as I am writing this review, Naima of John Coltrane is running in the background.

    The cinematography is supreme and beautiful. It reminded me of a Japanese film maker Ozu whose framing was geometrically perfect. I love the use of black and white, it helps me stay with the characters and avoids being awed by the embellishments of colors. The composition of the frames is very important too. The close ups are framed at a low angle as if to let us know how small our face are, in the grandeur of things.

    The performances were apt and the eyes of the protagonist Ida played by Agata Trzebuchowska were intriguing, I felt like her silence spoke a thousand words and there was a certain mystique which I fail to describe here. Also, Agata Kulesza who played the role her Aunt Wanda did a great job in displaying the much needed emotions. The film is held by the relationship of Ida and Wanda and both the actors have justified their roles. They were well supported by the other cast to. The credit for the extraction of acting from a first timer who played Ida, must go to the director Pawel Pawlikowski.

    The editing is superb too, it cuts all the unwanted frames and I felt though it cut abruptly, as I understood it more, I felt it was organic and right in the context of the film. With 80 minutes, this film has some good moments that can haunt for a long time.

    War comes and leaves some terrible things for us. It's difficult even today to believe the damage done to Jews in the World War 2 or to those lakhs of civilians who have died for no fault of their own. This film recalls those memories to tell a story that even today stands universal.

    Above all, it's a story of a lost child in search of identity. Kudos to the maker Pawel Pawlikowski and more power to his team and hopefully he brings out such films and also I hope he sticks to Black and White. I loved this and going with 4/5. Take time, watch this and trust me you won't forget the journey soon.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    *** This review may contain spoilers *** I appreciate a movie with an elevating allegorical subplot. With all its grand tragedy, this movie is about hope. Hope that there is meaning to life and its known where that hope can be found. That's real hope; that's worthwhile hope.Ida is a young woman in her early twenties. She grew up in a convent in Poland after World War ll. She speaks little, moves gracefully, acts reverently, and provides a beautiful and haunting image. Ida is preparing to take her final vows when she is called into Mother Superior's office and told that she still has one living relative and she must see her before taking her vows.Ida leaves the convent for virtually the first time to meets her aunt. She acquaints herself with her history. She learns that she was born to Jewish parents. During the War her parents and cousin (her aunt's son) were brutally murdered by a neighbor during the tumult of the holocaust period. Questions must be settled.

    This unlikely pair journey to the countryside where they were raised to find answers to these questions. Amazingly, they learn the details of the death of their family and where their bodies were buried. Jewish burial laws are quite extensive and specific, so learning this sad history was an essential task. They are able to collect the bones and rebury them properly. Parenthetically, an attractive and talented young musician enters the picture. He is playing a gig at the hotel where Ida and her aunt, Wanda, are staying. Ida and he connect. It's an innocent relationship, Ida's first interaction with a man.

    Wanda, is hard on the outside, but warm inside. She is an unhappy woman with no hope .She likes alcohol. Her life is occurrence after occurrence with no rhyme or reason. It appears that this journey and the answers it provided were the only meaning to her existence no matter how painful the experience was. Remember, her only son was a victim of this brutality as well.

    After the journey, life returns to normal, well sort of. Wanda retreats to her old self with one exception. She can no longer stomach living her life devoid of meaning or joy. She continues to cover up with liquor, unrequited sex, anger, and depression. Unfortunately, this led to her committing suicide. It's a shock reflecting the hopelessness of her life.

    Ida returns to the city for her aunt's funeral. Afterwards, she goes on a worldly binge journey filled with liquor, a sexual relationship, dressing up, you get the idea, all within a short time and in a protected environment. She searches to see if another existence is worth living. Therefore, she experiments with the accouterments of life as taught to her and left behind to her by her aunt. She appears as devoid of excitement in experimenting with these toys as she was when she first arrived. Her convent life is regimented, ruled, and regulated. The security and devotional experience that the convent bestows has now cracked open to let judgment creep in. She sees an alternative available to her. She sees that her live has also been a limited experimental existence.

    As a sidebar, there's another reason for this experimentation. At one point her aunt says to her, "you should have worldly experiences (she means sexual experiences) in order to have something to sacrifice, otherwise what have you given up for convent life?" She says this rather sarcastically, but Ida takes it seriously as sarcasm is not part of her awareness. Tthe film doesn't exactly paint a rosy picture of convent life. This film is shot in black and white, on a square screen format, reminiscent of the bleak time period, and has a depressing view of Poland and its people.The convent is shown in a very "Dickensoneon" way. So, Ida's judgment is limited to these two differing life experiences.

    The beautiful telling line comes as Ida and her lover are lying on the bed. The young man says, (paraphrased) "come to the beach with me and we will walk together." "Then what," Ida asks? "We'll get a dog. We'll get married, we'll have kids, we'll do the usual," was his answer. "Then what," Ida asks again? The blank look on her face tells it all. This experimental life didn't lead anywhere better than what she had and her lover had no answers beyond what she had already experienced. There was hope in her old life; there was none here.

    So, back to the convent she went. As she entered the gates, a smile of hope was gently displayed on her lips. There's so much to this story that I've only discussed the major issues. There are other issues like this film's attempt (and, in my opinion successfully) at dealing with Poland's unattractive part of its past.

    Ida lived a sheltered life. She only had two choices – that can be a good thing or not. In this case, it was very good. As drab, isolated, and restricted as her convent life was, nevertheless, it gave her an experience which, when weighted against the experimental worldly one, proved to be elevated and hopeful.The worldly experiment offered her nothing more than an immediate experience, while the convent afforded her security, relevance, reverence and hope for much more.

    There are very few films that elicit such gratitude in me. So often films are only looking to elicit emotion. This movie is a rare exception. It's a masterpiece in this respect. Gratitude is the great physical expression of love and devotion and this is the highest spiritual path. This movie took me to this most sacred place. Yes, Wanda is a tragic figure and we know, sadly that the world is full of very sad Wanda's. The world is not full of Ida's. She follows her higher self and that's unusual, to be respected, and, if we're lucky, to provide an experience of gratitude.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Part without spoilers.

    Why cheap? Black-and-white picture and very slow paced scenes to impose an artistic label.

    Why boring? It's plot can be explained in one sentence, using just a few words.

    Why pointless? This movie leaves nothing in your brain. No unsolved mysteries, no moral struggle, no beauty, nothing. It simply passes you like a television commercial that you have seen ten times already.

    Below are major spoilers, without watching the movie the words that follow might make no sense at all.

    History alienating. It is not historically inaccurate, since such things happen in all wars on planet, now, then and always will. It does highlight a part that is to be considered a minor in Polish history, which is the country where the highest number of Jews lived in world throughout centuries and it is NOT without a reason, yet that's off-topic so i suggest to go find out yourself the details. My point is, it takes a small element and makes it look like a polish movement on national scale.

    Which makes it to the next point, it is an anti-polish movie, a phenomena that is quite common in Poland. It is a mixture of low national self-belief and uncertainty of his/hers historical roots which have been injected by occupation propaganda where each occupying country propagated history favoring the version best suiting their own interest. There are few scenes that might appear irrelevant to the main plot, especially to a person without knowledge of Polish history, but they actually are very important for the message the movie is trying to send. When you understand the symbols, you might see this movie's ugly plain face that hides behind this black and white curtain. I will present two symbols.

    There is a scene with Wanda as a judge listening to what appears to be a prosecutor inspecting a saber. Which is probably the most emotionally valuable and sentimental item of Polish military ALSO he states that it's origins are of Pilsudski Legions, the ones responsible for Polish independence, together making it probably the most honorable and patriotic item of XX-century a Pole can imagine.

    Now knowing this, you must ask yourself, what is this scene doing there and what is the director trying to say? For me, its obvious, he wants to link Polish patriotism with the killings of Jews during second world war. Why does he do this? Because he is ashamed of his Polish origins and he wants the people to feel what he feels.

    Another question that might raise could be. Is it possible that Polish patriotism was a reason for the killings? There is nothing in known history that hints us that there is a link, more so one can assume that a Polish patriot during occupation in second world war would either join allied forces or underground army "AK"(direct trans.: "Army National") which worked together with Jewish underground armed forces, executed many operation's which included saving, supporting and freeing Jews. Since there is no historically accurate link between Polish patriots and the killing of Jews, then who killed the Jews? The answer is simple, criminals who took opportunity in times of Nazi laws.

    Another scene is where Wanda say's to Anna "Fancy stained glass next to cow sh*t." is pretty obvious, Poles are "cow sh*t" and Roza is "fancy stained glass".

    All in all, i give this movie 2 out of 10. The 2 points are for the camera work, which gave me good impression. Thank you.
  • Polish screenwriter and director Pawel Pawlikowski's fifth feature film which he co-wrote with screenwriter Rebecca Lenkiewicz, premiered at the 38th Toronto International Film Festival in 2013 and is a Poland-Denmark co-production which was produced by producers Eric Abraham, Piotr Dziȩciot and Ewa Puszczyǹska. It tells the story about a person who lives at a convent in Poland, and who one day is told that before taking her vows she has to leave.

    Distinctly and subtly directed by Polish filmmaker Pawel Pawlikowski, this quietly paced fictional tale which is narrated mostly from the main character's point of view, draws a silently reflective portrayal of an orphaned nun's meeting with her aunt who is a former state prosecutor and communist. While notable for its atmospheric milieu depictions, reverent cinematography by cinematographers Lukasz Zal and Rysznard Lenczewski and production design by production designers Katarzyna Sobańska and Marcel Slawiński, this narrative-driven story which is inspired by the life of a real person, depicts a humane study of character and contains a timely score by composer Kristian Selin Eidnes Andersen.

    This humoristic and historic drama which is set in the 20th century in postwar Poland and where a niece goes looking for her parents with her relative named Wanda, is impelled and reinforced by its cogent narrative structure, substantial character development, rhythmic continuity and the discreet and charming acting performances by Polish actresses Agata Trzebuchowska, Agata Kulesza and Polish actor Dawid Ogrodnik. A symbolic, cinematographic and mysterious narrative feature.
  • 'IDA': Three and a Half Stars (Out of Five)

    Polish drama flick about a nun, that's about to take her vows in 1960s Poland, who first learns a disturbing secret about her family's past. It was directed by Pawel Pawlikowski and written by Pawlikowski and Rebecca Lenkiewicz. It has received almost unanimously positive reviews from critics and garnered a great deal of prestigious awards attention as well (including Academy Award nominations for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Cinematography). The film has been negatively criticized by some though, for portraying Poles as anti-Jewish. I found the movie to be interesting and beautiful to watch but I wish the characters would have been developed more.

    Agata Trzebuchowska stars as Anna; an orphan who was brought up by nuns in a convent, in the 1960s Polish People's Republic. She's a novice, about to take her vows, when her superior (Halina Skoczynska) tells her she must first meet her aunt, her only living relative, Wanda Gruz (Agata Kulesza). Wanda is an alcoholic judge, who used to be a prosecutor responsible for sending many anti- communist Polish soldiers to their death. She tells Anna about her Jewish heritage and the two set out on a journey together, to learn more about their family's past. They both, of course, learn more about who they are now, in the process.

    The movie is presented all in black-and-white and I strongly agree with it's Best Cinematography Oscar nomination. The acting is all decent and the story is compelling, but I wish it would have been developed at least a little more. We get to know the Wanda character pretty well but we hardly learn much about Anna at all, before the film is over. The movie is only 80 minutes long and it seems like it could have been so much more emotional, if we would have gotten to know both characters better. There was potential here for a really great film; but I think it's still worth viewing (for it's visuals alone).

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  • Quote from an earlier review: > "Red Hair Wanda" because she ruthlessly adjudged death penalty to a few war criminals

    No. She was called Red Wanda (actually "Bloody Wanda" from the original Polish dialog) because she ruthlessly murdered Polish patriots opposed to Stalinist oppression in show trials. Her character was inspired (as revealed by the director in later interviews) by a real-life Helena Wolińska-Brus, originally Fajga Mindla Danielak. The difference is, the original character did not have any moral upheaval, and when Stalinism collapsed and communist party started to fracture, she emigrated to England. She died there at the age of 89. Poland tried to extradite her repeatedly, but to no avail.

    I also understand why this film was met with mixed reception in Poland. This is the country where up to 50,000 Poles were murdered by the Nazis for protecting Jews (half of all people honored as "Righteous Among the Nations" by Yad Vashem are Poles). Yet, this movie focuses on a psychopath who murders a Jewish family for material gain. There is not a single positive Polish character in this movie, despite the fact that even the Jewish-Stalinist murderer is painted with warmth and understanding. Considering lack of basic historical education in the West about that period in Poland, I understand why some Poles are dismayed, and why some even call this movie anti-Polish.

    As for the movie itself, I found it a bit too predictable and unsatisfying. Still, I give it 5/10 for excellent photography by Ryszard Lenczewski and Lukasz Zal.
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