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Ida
Year:
2013
Country:
UK, France, Poland, Denmark
Genre:
Drama
IMDB rating:
7.4
Director:
Pawel Pawlikowski
Jerzy Trela as Szymon
Mariusz Jakus as Barman
Jan Wociech Poradowski as Father Andrew
Artur Janusiak as Policeman
Afrodyta Weselak as Marysia
Agata Kulesza as Wanda
Storyline: Poland, 1962. Anna, an orphan brought up by nuns in the convent, is a novice. She has to see Wanda, the only living relative, before she takes her vows. Wanda tells Anna about her Jewish roots. Both women start a journey not only to find their family's tragic story, but to see who they really are and where they belong. They question what they used to believe in.
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Reviews
Will definitely be a front runner for 2014 Best Foreign Picture Oscar nominations
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.
2014-05-12
A hard film to watch
This film is hard to watch. It is so dismal. It is sad to see the conditions of the time. The forced conditions of the time with Poland in the Iron Curtain. There is no hope in the film for me which is challenging.

The film is not a real story. I am sure something like this occurred, maybe many times.

I saw a lot of commentary for and against the film. Some Poles feel it misrepresents what happened there with the Jewish population. The film can't really stand on its own as a representation of WWII actions. You really have to know the history. The audience in Poland knows the history, I believe. I find that my kids and the younger generations don't want to know the history, don't care, don't think it can happen again, may not believe it ever happened because it is too terrible. I think many people are like that now. Everything they know is based on how the world works now, here in the US. They are products of their environment. A human life has not always been valued, cherished, and protected as in the US now. Travel to any 3rd world country and you'll find that out fast.

Having said that, knowing a lot of history of WWII and specifically about Poland, I was not surprised at all that the Jewish family was killed by Poles. I was horrified to see the story, but not surprised. My assumption, not based on anything told in the movie, was that the family was killed because hiding them in the woods was punishable by death. I don't think we can imagine now the horrors of Nazi occupation. They not only hated and killed Jews, but they hated 'Slavs' and did not value anyone's life in Poland, from the information I have seen. There would have been no hesitation to kill the Jews and anyone, the whole family, harboring them. Does that mean it was somehow OK to kill the Jewish family? No it does not, far from it. Knowing that the Jewish hidden family would have been tortured, made to indicate others in hiding and anyone who helped them, I can't even imagine choices made. There was no excuse for the axe murder of the family by the harboring Polish family's son. I am sure the Nazi's would have tortured or hurt children and all family members to make folks talk in either family. If you were involved with Jews, you risked your life and your family's life. But what kind of choice was that? I would like to think that I would've made that choice, to help the Jewish family, but who knows. I cannot understand the axe murder of them certainly. A recent visit to the resistance museum in Amsterdam put me in touch with the realities of Nazi occupation and how different folks of the time felt about helping or not helping Jewish people. They were not Jewish people, they were just people. The Nazis created and defined them as different.

Thinking about it, this film is about the ugliness of the time, with blame on everyone because of the dire circumstances created by that war and specifically, the Nazis. I am not sure how it won the award because it is just so awful. It is well made and sparks controversy. That's it.

I am a WWII buff and also an international film and indie film long time fan. I watch television from around the world, many, many films too.

I am a Pole though very distant from family there. My family emigrated to the US over 100 years ago. I have been to Poland and many places in Eastern Europe. I have been to many 3rd world countries and seen a child butted with a rifle by local military authorities. It is still a brutal world, but the world of WWII Poland was something more brutal than can be comprehended.

The film just makes me sad and though I'd like to be proud of the honesty, the angst and unhappiness of the film is just too ugly. I can't recommend it for most folks.
2015-02-28
Personal and collective versions of the past collide.
Drastically different versions of the past, both personal and collective, collide in this beautiful black and white exploration into religion, politics, family and the lives and chosen identities of two intriguing women. Ida is an introverted orphan who is about to take her vows in the Catholic Church. She is sent to spend time with her outgoing and unrestrainable aunt, who Ida has never met. Her aunt is a judge known as "Red Wanda" who is merciless in the prosecution of the enemies of the socialist state. Wanda has lately tired of her socialist fervor and drifted into an alcohol induced depression. The appearance of Ida encourages Wanda to dig into their collective roots together. Set in the 1960s, the unlikely pair set off across the countryside to look deeper into mysteries of their past that are in curiously variable states of being unknown, known and intentionally buried. They meet a saxophone player who entrances Ida with Coltrane and tells her, in her religious garb, "you have no idea of the effect you have do you?!" The acting, cinematography, directing and story lines are all superb. The only thing lacking is support from major benefactors. I appreciated that the film took place in Lodz, where relatives of mine once lived. I especially enjoyed the juxtaposition of quiet Ida with explosive Wanda. "Your Jesus didn't hide in caves," Wanda maintains, "he went out into the world and adored people like me."
2014-11-15
Our Past, Present and Future in 80 Minutes
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.
2014-06-01
The Story of Ida – being spiritual, being carnal, being human
"In the end, everything is found to be wanting." - Frank Lentricchia, The Sadness of Antonioni

Set in the post-World War II Poland, the film traverses the life events of a Christian orphan, nun-to-be – Ida, who just weeks before taking her oath meets her only living relative - a long-lost Jewish aunt - Wanda; and subsequently came along the unknown memories of a long- lost childhood.

In their brief association, they travel to the countryside to know the whereabouts of her dead parents where Ida buries the tragedy of her murdered and much-unknown Jewish family along with the reasons of her own survival, thereby returning to her convent to continue her journey ahead, thus marking the necessary re-dissociation with her alcoholic, tramp-like, unstable aunt (the irony), but ends up having the very doubts towards her choice to abnegate the world. With a heavy heart, she decides not to take her oath; however, she wasn't alone – her aunt ends up taking drastic steps to rest her own doubts.

In order to attend the funeral, Ida gets another opportunity to associate a little more with her unknown roots. She returns to the quarters of her then deceased aunt and is tempted to live nights with the philandering ways of her once only-living-relative – of liquor, smoking and men. She accepts the course of life coming her way - that of the materialistic world, full of carnal passion. Although, she seemed not herself and the next morning Ida leaves for her old life at the convent – to become the person that she sought out to be.

The Polish film noir displays a distinctive story-telling and abstract cinematography. As we see Ida's world in "black and white" we realise that though all humans seem good and evil, they are not; instead they are 'ironically' different shades of grey - both good and evil. When the pious, untouched heart of a sister is tinged by them, she is bound to be attracted and even so - deviated from her path of renouncement. The life as we know it worked like a vaccine for a nun-to-be, and then this spiritually lost girl emerged out immune to all the attractions that the world could offer.

Director Pawel Pawlokowski, who won the Academy Award for the Best Foreign Language film for this work, may have given his viewers a lot more than usual cinema experience to think of. Anna Trzebuchowska as Ida, is diminutively beautiful in her portrayal of a sister; however, Anna Kulesza as Ida's aunt is the most impressive amongst the cast with her alcoholic, drained out, yet fighter-like persona.

"Subtly attractive; 7/10"
2016-02-07
Not a masterpiece
The story is incredibly interesting and could have been turned into a great film.

The problem however are the dialogues, at least in the Polish original. They are totally unrealistic. The characters talk contemporary Polish, I would say the language young people currently speak. There is no effort to depict the way it was spoken in Poland a few decades ago. Also, the acting is not very good, especially from Trzebuchowska, Kulesza is much better. All in all, when I'm watching the movie I can't lose the impression that I'm watching people pretending to live in very different times.

Not sure if the problem also exists in other language versions, hopefully not.

It's not a bad film, but definitely not a masterpiece.
2016-12-29
Calm, quiet and extremely beautiful
It's not only the story that makes this film exceptional, but above all the way it is told.

The absolutely stunning black-and-white photography, framed in an almost square format and filmed with a static camera, constantly takes your breath away. The image composition is exceptionally beautiful. In many cases, the subject is off centre, or even in a corner of the image, to create aesthetically superior images. Watching the film is like turning the pages of a coffee table book with carefully composed photographs of a long-forgotten era.

The choice to film almost the entire movie with a static, non-moving camera creates a wonderful effect. Instead of following the action, we see persons moving in and out of the camera frame. It's a style made famous by Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu, and it works perfectly in this Polish film which features the same understated, minimalistic approach we know from Ozu's best films.

The quiet, almost contemplative style of filming suits the story perfectly. Set in communist Poland of the sixties, the film shows the unlikely search of a young catholic novice and her cynical, alcoholic aunt for the grave of her Jewish parents. The story highlights the still sensitive subject of Polish anti-Semitism, but above all it is the story of two personalities. The first, the nun-to-be Ida, has never really thought about her own fate, being brought up in the rigid hierarchy of the Catholic church. But the events make her start to doubt the convent life she is about to lead. The other, the exemplary communist state prosecutor Wanda, despises the life she leads. The reason for her cynicism become clear during the film. After they have successfully completed the search, both women handle the experiences in their own way, with major consequences.

This film is the complete opposite of the loud, dynamic, nervous style of film making that many film makers nowadays use. It's a calm, quiet, and slow film - and above all an extremely beautiful one.
2015-01-03
Rigorous art-house movie-making
"Ida" is the kind of rigorous little 'art-house' movie that you might have seen in the sixties ... say, from Eastern Europe or from Scandinavia. Of course, "Ida" does indeed hail from Poland and is set in the 1960's so it is something of a time capsule and it certainly won't play your multiplex on a Saturday night. The director is the Polish born Pawel Pawlikowski and the film feels more like his tribute to the kind of art-house fare he grew up admiring. The story is simplicity itself. Ida is a young postulant about to take her vows who goes to visit the aunt she never really knew. Her aunt is everything Ida isn't; brash, chain-smoking, sexually promiscuous and almost always drunk. She is also a judge and a former state prosecutor in the new Communist Poland and she tells Ida that, rather than being Catholic, she is actually Jewish and that her parents were executed during the War. The film then becomes a road movie as Ida and her aunt head off in search of answers and the possibility of finding her parents' grave. Shot superbly in black and white by Ryszard Lenczewski and Lukasz Zal and with minimal dialogue, the film is a perfectly fine example of the 'art' of movie-making that sadly never really engaged me on any emotional level. It also suffers in comparison with Bunuel's "Viridiana", the plot of which it slightly steals from. Needless to say, critics craving a bit of Bergman-lite have been salivating over the movie but I found it colder than a Polish winter.
2014-11-02
Pawlikowski's Polish or Jewish joke
The character of Wanda is based on real person Helena Wolińska who was a military prosecutor in postwar Poland involved in Stalinist regime show trials of the 1950s. She had on her conscience cos she died a life of Poland's wartime general Emil August Fieldorf "Nil", commander of the underground Polish Home Army during World War II. Fieldorf was executed, following a show-trial, and buried in a secret location. Until today no one found his body. Now it is the time in Poland that we find thousands of Polish "coursed soldiers" killed by Wolinska and like her who were buried in secret not even telling their families that they were killed. Fildorf "Nil"'s daughter died few years ago never to find father's body. After 60 years we find our heroes with sculls with bullet holes. Pawlikowski befriended her that is Wolinska and her husband Wlodzimierz Brus another commie when they lived happily in Oxford. Of course they were Jews if someone doesn't know In the movie Wanda show her cousin photos of lost Jewish family members killed by Germans or Polish peasants as Pawlikowski wants. For not Polish viewer the photos say nothing, but if you look closely you can find in one of the photos photo of Irena Sendler. She of course is very well known for working for Żegota children section during Warsaw ghetto. She was a gentile. In such a way Pawlikowski has made Sendler communist murderer's relative. If Polish relative of those killed by such Wolinska and likes see this movie 'a knife itself open in a pocket" as we say.
2015-03-06
Beautiful but Underdeveloped
"Ida" 2013 directed by Paweł Pawlikowski, is a brief (80 minutes) black-and-white, two-character movie. It is very quiet; you barely need to read the subtitles to follow the slender plot. It is so slow- moving that three times while watching it I suspected that technical difficulties had stopped the film. No; the actor and scene were merely all but frozen. This almost anorexic film takes on huge, sweeping issues: Polish-Jewish relations, Christian-Jewish relations, identity, the Holocaust, guilt, karma, Communist oppression of Poles, and the Catholic vow of chastity for nuns. Reviewers have blessed "Ida" with glowing reviews, insisting that this minimalist film makes big points through allusion and suggestion.

I doubt this. I think most viewers who don't know a heck of a lot about Poland will be baffled and bored by this movie. I think sometimes less is not more but really is less. I think "Ida" would have been a better film with a more tightly focused and more developed screenplay. Words can lead to misunderstanding but words are what we've got to work with. "Too many notes!" a cinematic emperor criticized a Mozart work. "Ida" suffers from "too few words."

In spite of its heavy subject matter, what struck me most about "Ida," and what I will most remember, is its visual beauty. "Ida" is shot in black and white, and it takes place in undistinguished Polish settings in the depth of winter. You see snow-covered fields, corner bars, dingy buildings with cracked plaster. The careful composition of each shot, and the cinematographers' lovely handling of different gradations of light and shadow, transform otherwise dreary locales into works of art.

"Ida" is about a teenage girl in Poland in the 1960s. She has spent her entire life in convent, and she is about to take her final vows. Her mother superior orders her to meet, for the first time, with Wanda Gruz, her sole living relative. Ida does so, and Wanda informs Ida that she is Jewish. Wanda and Ida travel to the village where their Jewish family hid from the Nazis in a barn. Ida's parents and brother were murdered. Wanda and Ida travel to their grave. This new information causes Ida to reassess her commitment to becoming a nun.

Agata Trzebuchowska plays Ida. Press accounts claim she is not a professional actress. She is given very little to say or do. The camera spends much time gazing at her youth and beauty. A male director ogling a gorgeous young amateur – the director's "discovery" – whom he does not allow to speak, act or develop as something other than an artistic composition – distracted and offended me. Enough already with females as marionettes of male geniuses.

Agata Kulesza plays Wanda Gruz, Ida's aunt. Wanda was a judge under Communism. Wanda participated in the persecution of Polish anti-Nazi fighters in the post-war era. Wanda is based on the real life Helena Wolińska-Brus. Wolinska-Brus participated in the Stalinist persecution of genuine heroes who had fought the Nazis and aided Jews. She was a monster.

The Wanda Gruz of "Ida" is not a monster. She is the most fascinating and memorable character in the film. She is the one burning ember in an otherwise inert, black-and-white landscape of monosyllabic Polish peasants and the boring Miss Goody Twoshoes, Ida. Wanda is complex. She is a highly tormented character who drinks, smokes, is sexy and sexually promiscuous, and reveals her superior intelligence through her sarcasm. In the scene where Wanda and Ida are brought to their relatives' graves by a morally compromised Polish peasant, Wanda reveals deep grief. You cannot help but like Wanda.

In a movie that touches on WW II and the Holocaust, I was sickened by how sympathetic Wanda was. Would Pawlikowski have been able to get away with placing a likable Nazi at the center of such a film? If not, then why did he place a sexy and lovable Stalinist murderess at the center of his film? Answer: Because Stalinist murder does not carry the same taint as Nazi murder. Problem: the millions tortured and murdered in the name of Communism are just as dead as the millions murdered in the name of Nazism.

There are volumes of history and hours of debate transcripts behind the issues that "Ida" touches on. Most filmgoers will have no idea of any of this and much of the film will pass right over their heads. Reviews on the International Movie Database reveal this. Sincere and intelligent filmgoers were unmoved and befuddled by "Ida." Key pieces of information are never articulated: Poland was occupied by Nazis. Nazis persecuted and murdered Polish Catholics as well as Jews. Some Poles betrayed Jews. Some Poles were heroic and saved Jews. Many Poles were neither heroic nor villainous. Everyone was afraid for his or her life. A thousand years of history preceded the Nazi era, and every word and gesture has history behind it. There are no easy answers.

"Ida" falls into predictable traps. Its Jewish character, Wanda, is fascinating and verbal, worldly and morally compromised. Its Catholic character is pure, but boring and simpleminded. These stereotypes are trite and unworthy of any serious film.

Towards the end of the film, one major character leaves the movie and the other character is left to pursue an underdeveloped and aborted subplot that serves no end except to add extra minutes to the runtime.
2015-01-03
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