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I wanted to like this film a lot more than I did.
MartinHafer1 July 2014
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.
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Gorgeous looking and atmospheric gloom
SnoopyStyle25 April 2015
It's 1960s rural Poland. Orphan Anna is a novice nun after being raised by nuns in the convent. She sees her only surviving relative Wanda Grub who is a hard drinking judge. She's told that her real name is Ida Lebenstein and their family was slaughtered late in the war. She goes in search of her past and find shocking revelations.

The movie's black and white cinematography looks gorgeous. The sparse dialog and quiet acting fills this with atmospheric gloom. There are surprising twists. It's heart-breaking. The coldness does overtake the movie too much and the actors aren't allowed to truly emote. The movie needs moments of emotional explosions to break up the slow gloom. Instead there are emotional explosions but shot in a quiet way.
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delicate portrait
Kirpianuscus12 October 2015
delicacy is the basic virtue of a film who presents different bitter subjects in an inspired manner. a film about faith and roots. about life discovered by a fascinating character who seems very far by world's expectations. a film about love and sacrifice who reminds the grace and precision and science to explore the details of the cinema from the East. high lesson of cinema, it is an admirable exploration of the character's nuances. not only for the good cast or for the special art of script but for the force of silence , looks and sound of the words. a film about a young woman front with a new perspective. and her way to self definition. and the gestures who transforms the challenges.
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Fails in getting the audience involved
Horst_In_Translation15 September 2014
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.
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trapped in two Polands
lee_eisenberg4 August 2015
Poland, like the rest of Europe, has made movies focusing on its experience under Nazi occupation. Paweł Pawlikowski's "Ida" looks at a young woman about to take her vows in 1962 who discovers that she was born a Jew. She proceeds to try and find out the whole story.

The movie drew criticism from various factions in Poland. One allegation is that it depicts the Poles as willing collaborators with the Nazis. Another is that it portrays Jews as willing collaborators with the Soviet-backed regime. I'd say that a better description is that it shows how there were different kinds of people in both eras. Just as there were Poles who aided the Nazis, there were Poles who helped the Jews. Just as there were people who collaborated with Moscow's puppets, there were people who resisted it.

The point is, this is a very well made movie. The black-and-white cinematography emphasizes the existence that people lived in 1960s Poland, a combination of the Nazis' atrocities from twenty years earlier (including the leveling of Warsaw) and the Soviet-backed regime's atrocities. It was appropriate that this was Poland's first winner of Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars, along with a number of other awards. I highly recommend the movie, and I hope to see more movies from this director.
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jboothmillard9 January 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I first heard of this Polish film during awards season, and then of course it went on to triumph, and I had all the more reason to see it when it was added to the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. Basically in 1960s Poland, young Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) is an orphaned who brought up by nuns in the convent, she is now a novice nun and knows very little about the outside world. She is due to take her vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, all to commit herself to God, before she can do so however Mother Superior (Halina Skoczynska) tells her she has an aunt, her mother's sister, Wanda (Agata Kulesza), her only living relative. When they meet, like she is told to, Wanda reveals that Anna was actually named Ida by her parents, who were killed in World War II during the German occupation, and Ida is in fact Jewish, she is surprised that the nuns never told her of her true origins. Together Ida and Wanda set off on a journey together to learn more about her parents during the war and their tragic story, where they might be buried, and along the way a profound effect happens for both women. The bones of the parents are found and placed in the Jewish cemetery family burial plot, but Wanda and Ida part ways, Wanda ends up drinking and sleeping around until she commits suicide jumping from a building roof. While Ida gives into sexual urges, going against her future vow to remain celibate, and sleeping with hitchhiker Lis (Dawid Ogrodnik, but she dons her habit and leaves him, it is unclear whether she returns to the convent or being caught between two worlds. Also starring Jerzy Trela as Szymon, Adam Szyszkowski as Feliks, Joanna Kulig as Singer and Dorota Kuduk as Kaska. Non- professional actress Trzebuchowska proves herself a good choice as the innocent nun given home truths that change her future, but Kulesza almost steals the show as the aunt who appears world-weary but hides vulnerability, I admit having to read subtitles I could not stick with it all completely, but what I could keep up with was interesting, challenging beliefs and other issues, and the black and white colour adds to the feel of melancholy throughout, an interesting drama. It won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, and it was nominated for Best Cinematography, it won the BAFTA for Best Film Not in the English Language, and it was nominated for Best Cinematography, and it was nominated the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film. Worth watching!
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Gordon-1118 February 2015
This film tells the story of a young woman who is about to take a vow to be a nun. She gets the news that her only surviving relative, her aunt, wants to meet her for the first time. Together, they embark on a journey to discover family history.

I'm really at a lost as to why there is so much praise for "Ida". I don't mind it black and white, but I mind it bring so slow and plain. There is no sound effect, no sets and no nothing. It's almost like a dogme film. The story has the potential to be touching, but it is told so plainly and without engagement or emotion that I just don't care for anything in the film. As for the artistic achievement, quite a free scenes have the characters on the edge of the screen, as if the cameraman somehow misplaced the camera. I found "Ida" very boring.
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Well worthy of it's Oscar....
CinemaSerf9 March 2020
A beautifully shot story about a young woman who was abandoned to the church as a baby and is now about to take holy orders. Before she fully commits, however, she decides to trace her birth family. Agata Trzebuchowska ("Anna") alights on her aunt Agata Kulesza ("Wanda") - a former pillar of the post war Polish communist legal establishment, but now a rather dissolute character prone to drinking and one night stands, to help her find the truth. Her family story has some grisly history to it, but together they travel their country in search of some answers. En route, they pick up a hitchhiker "Lis" (David Ogrodnik) who (genuinely) plays tenor sax in a band that has a gig in their hotel with with whom she bonds - after a fashion - until their search is concluded and yet more tragedy strikes our novice nun. This film is wonderfully enigmatic - it is quite difficult to date; the script is taut but sparing; the monochrome effects render it an atmosphere all of it's own and despite the inevitability of the whole thing, there is still a degree of optimism and sincerity seeping through the prevailing timbre of sadness.
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The Not so Usual. Life.
ferguson-629 June 2014
Greetings again from the darkness. Writer/director Pawel Pawlikowski films in his homeland of Poland and presents a familiar topic from a most unusual perspective. This film has been very well received on the festival circuit and it's easy to see why: it's beautifully photographed, very well acted, includes terrific music and presents an emotional story for intelligent viewers.

We first meet Anna as a novitiate nun on the verge of taking her vows. Her Mother Superior has one requirement. Anna must visit her lone surviving relative. Her Aunt Wanda is everything Anna is not: worldly, cynical, direct. In the first few minutes of their visit, Wanda (Agata Kulesza) informs Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) that she was born Jewish with the name Ida, and she was sent to a Catholic orphanage when her parents were killed.

After this bombshell, the two set out on a journey to discover the truth and trace their roots. It's a journey of discovery not just for Ida, but also for Wanda, who carries her own burden. Questioning one's faith and one's true identity is nothing new, but this makes for quite an unusual buddy road trip. Wanda is rarely without a drink in hand and Ida has had no previous exposure to the real world.

This is the debut of Agata Trzebuchowska and her porcelain look and big eyes convey a quality with which we find ourselves comfortable with, while Ms. Kulesza evokes empathy from the viewer despite her harsh edge and beaten down outlook on life and people. Hers is a standout performance.

Two exceptional pieces of music are used to perfection: Coltraine's "Naima" and Mozart's "Jupiter" symphony. The storytelling and look of the film might be austere (stunning black and white photography) but this music hits us hard in two separate scenes.
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rare work
Vincentiu26 June 2014
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.
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DA successfully mounts a much more dreadful picture of the loss of humanity in viewers' minds
lasttimeisaw29 August 2014
Warning: Spoilers
With its technical specs like 1.33:1 aspect ratio and posh Black & White cinematography, Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski's fifth feature film IDA, gains an instant art house recognition albeit its pithy 82-minute running time.

Back to his homeland, Pawlikowski scrupulously traces back to the era of 1960s, contemplates the aftermath of WWII through a road trip of Ida (Trzebuchowska), a Jewish orphan who is scheduled to take her vows to become a nun, and her aunt Wanda (Kulesza) whom she has never met before and who is a damaged good herself and has been persisted in withholding the custody of Ida out of human nature.

Treading in the bonding process with the methodology of reticent verbal communication and aesthetically unconventional compositions, a plain journey to locate the graves of Ida's parents delves into a more soul-searching purgation for both women, especially for Wanda, whose tragic back-stories are brutally but implicitly unveiled, which ultimately overtakes her bearing capacity. Wanda is a more complicated character, she is the opposite of Ida, a middle-aged single woman who flirts casually and indulges herself with smoke and alcohol, she is a magistrate, once called "Red Hair Wanda" because she ruthlessly adjudged death penalty to a few war criminals, Kulesza is superb in bringing out both the wrath and tenderness within the character, "I can see through your lies", Wanda utters to the man who has committed horrible wrongdoings in the extreme times, she is devastated inside, but at the same time, she is fearless as well, her abrupt egress stands for one of the most shocking scenes in recent art cinema, its impact comes headstrong and poignant.

Most of the time, Ida is the sidekick of Wanda, an unobtrusive observer during their journey, but the horrific truth she gleans about her family gradually undermines her belief, after Wanda's accident, her short-term spree with secular pleasure unforcedly embodies the thin fine line between enlightened detachment and blind spirituality. Trzebuchowska is calculatedly composed in her acting debut, with the semblance of a meek girl under the guidance of Pawlikowski's less-is-more philosophy.

Pawlikowski is not seeking forgiveness or retribution with regards to the man-made horrors executed in WWII, the most applauding merit of IDA is its immense patience to let its characters to mull over their emotional spectra and decide their own destinies, nothing seems rushed or premeditated, yet in 82 minutes, IDA successfully mounts a much more dreadful picture of the loss of humanity in viewers' minds than its own austere but visually pleasing aesthetics, hope it will stand the test of time but as far as I am concerned, its sui generis modus operandi should be more treasured than the film per se.
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I wish the characters would have been developed more.
Hellmant22 January 2015
'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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Ida down
Lejink4 January 2015
This is a quiet, almost still film about guilt, identity and life-choices. Photographed in black and white, it's unstinting in its austerity and bleakness as it posits a young novitiate Polish nun named Anna who just before she takes her final vows is urged by her Mother Superior to go out into the world under the reluctant stewardship of her long-absent aunt and make her mind up definitely about her fate.

Said aunt is a judge in the grey early 60's Communist time but who in a past life was a member of the Jewish resistance, now struggling with her past guilt and current duties as well as her abiding loneliness fuelled by her propensity to drink and indulging in casual sex. It's she who reveals to Anna her true identity as a Jew born of parents murdered during the war by non-Jewish Polish nationals who stole their property in so doing.

The film explores their uneasy relationship as the aunt, at first unwillingly but later, compelled by the need to exorcise her own demons and sense of familial responsibility to the young girl, digs deeper into the past to find their true selves. Along the way they encounter a young jazz musician who seems to open up for Anna / Ida the prospect of a conventional life. The film ends however with both women making irrevocable choices which only confirm the gloominess of all that has gone before.

Only 82 minutes long, for me I still found it dragged itself to its necessary conclusion in a way that strained my patience and interest. The young first-time actress in the lead merely projects a mask-like persona which somehow failed to inspire any sympathy in me. Perhaps Ida was deadened by her experience in the convent but after finding out the true history of herself and her family and experiencing drink and sex soon afterwards, the film ends with her donning again her nun's clothing and hurrying back to the convent.

I couldn't work out whether the film was thus criticising the mundane dehumanising Communist regime or making an even bigger point about the purity of a sacred life as against the travails of a profane one, but ultimately the coldness of the photography and indeed the characters failed to really engage me and make me care about their fates. The film is beautifully shot, but in a pretentious art-house manner (characters depicted off-centre in the frame, long pauses, no movement) which ultimately for me went against the humanity at the heart of these troubled individuals.

I understand the earnest pretensions of the film-maker but ultimately my curiosity in the characters and their disparate, desperate lives was nullified by the dullness of what was put on the screen.
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Talking in pictures
paul2001sw-131 July 2017
Pawel Pawlikowski's beautifully-shot film 'Ida' is a sparse, yet unconventionally structured, film about a young nun's discovery of a hidden past in 1960s Poland. The Poles suffered terribly in World War Two, but the relationship of the Christian majority to their Jewish neighbours was complex and far from unsullied, and post-war, there was never a public accounting in the way that took place in the aggressor state of Germany. The film addresses the aftermath of this, and does so in an appropriately complex way.

The style is familiar from Pawlikowski's other works, like 'Last Resort', and the aesthetic is powerful, even though it always seems a little like cheating to shoot a film set in the past in black-and-white (I should note that in his early works, Kieslowski used colour - and it's absence - wonderfully without resorting to monochrome). Perhaps it's the black-and-white which also reminded me of Jarmusch's 'Stranger than Paradise', although 'Ida' is less a self-conscious film. It won at the Oscars, although one senses that a film of this type can only win at the Academy in the category for foreign-language movies - American Oscar-winners are rarely this indirect and bare. Agata Trzebuchowska is good in the title role, but Agata Kulesza steals the show as her troubled aunt.
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Rigorous art-house movie-making
MOscarbradley2 November 2014
"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.
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Nun the wiser.
Pjtaylor-96-13804410 March 2020
Although 'Ida (2013)' achieves a cold, isolating effect, it actually struggles quite a bit when it comes to thematic or emotional resonance. Its story, which ought to be wrought with emotion, doesn't really hit home. Perhaps that's because we feel at a distance from our core players despite always being in close proximity to them. Of course, there is something to be said for the flick's delicate exposition and otherwise subtle storytelling. It mostly works to an enigmatic effect. However, it's sometimes too subtle. Much of the lead's inner machinations are left up to interpretation, as she moves through the narrative with a blank face and only the simplest of dialogue. That's not to say that the film is particularly uninteresting. In fact, it's often rather intriguing. The issue is that it isn't all that engaging. Despite its great cinematography and understated camera-work, it isn't moving in any real way. It isn't so much boring as it is slow, though. I wish it was more captivating than it is, as it's a well-crafted movie with an under-explored setting, but it's worth a watch if you know what you're getting into. 6/10
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The Nun's Story
richardchatten4 August 2021
Whereas Jacques Rivette's despairing 'La Religieuse' had been shot in incongruously pretty sixties Eastmancolor, this laconic but wryly good-humoured female road movie - like Ingmar Bergman's Persona' - gains much of it's seductive visual impact from being shot in coolly glacial monochrome that looks like what you'd have got if Vermeer had worked in charcoal.

Similarly, like the Scandinavian good looks of Liv Ullman and Bibi Andersson in Bergman's film, 'Ida' is fascinating to watch throughout simply for the strong Polish features of Agata Kulesza as the chain-smoking 'Red Wanda' and the button eyes of Agata Trzebuchowska in the title role.
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Red_Identity11 October 2014
The fact that this is in black-and-white, along with being pretty slow paced, was enough to remind me of The White Ribbon, even if the similarities end there, although both share their ideals about the experiences of the past and how those experiences shape us. This is a pretty good film, I just expected (actually no, wanted) more. The two leads' performances are pretty strong, and the journey of self-discovery, even if really slow paced and looks to be very unaccessible, is one that anyone can empathize with, even if most of us don't share the same or similar history in our lives. Overall, mildly recommended.
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As Cold, Static & Depressing As Winters!
CinemaClown27 January 2015
Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at Oscars this year, Ida is an intimately crafted, patiently narrated & visually enticing tale about identity that's neither meant to nor going to work out for everyone. Its emotionally scarring content is sure to make many embrace it, but then its wintry ambiance is also capable of leaving many with a cold feeling towards it.

Set in Poland during the 1960s, Ida tells the story of its titular character who is a young novice nun planning to take her vows but is asked to visit her family before doing so. After meeting her only relative, she learns about her true heritage & embarks on a journey with her to find out about her parents, a journey that sheds light on their past & alters their future.

Directed by Paweł Pawlikowski, the most striking thing about Ida is its frame composition. The whole picture is a beautiful work of greyscale photography for each image is sharp, crisp & clear. Characters are wonderfully scripted, pacing is deliberately slow, music makes fine use of classical tracks & it benefits greatly from some strong performances, especially from the two ladies playing Ida & her aunt.

On an overall scale, Ida has a lot to admire about but I can't deny that it left me quite unmoved in the end. Its winter-like characteristics exhibit everything one usually hates about winters, things like its narration is mostly static, its cold atmosphere makes the ride even tougher, the subject matter is depressing & instead of a promise of spring, its ending is all the more heartbreaking. Still worth a shot though.
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The subject is so boring
jack_o_hasanov_imdb26 August 2021
The subject is so boring.

The subject did not interest me at all, as a matter of fact, I watched it because it received an Oscar award. Visually, I like it very much.
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Extraordinary film. Don't miss it!
Red-12513 June 2014
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.
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Offers no easy answers
howard.schumann4 July 2014
Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska), a young novice ready to take her vows, learns through her aunt Wanda (Agata Kulesza) that she is of Jewish parentage and must come to terms with a past she never knew existed. Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski's Ida offers no easy answers but looks at each character's complexities, leaving only a trail of ambiguity. Shot in black and white by cinematographers Ryszard Lenczewski and Lukasz Zal, the film is set in Poland in the early 1960s and masterfully captures the bleak look of Communist-controlled Eastern Europe where the physical and emotional scars of World War II are impossible to hide.

Before taking her vows, the Mother Superior asks Anna to go to Lodz to visit her Aunt Wanda, her only living family member, but the visit causes her to experience emotions she had never been forced to confront. When the slender, frail, saintly-looking younger woman meets her aunt for the first time, Wanda is dressed in a bathrobe, a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other, a shadow of the judge and former Communist prosecutor of "enemies of the state," who routinely sent people to their death. Leading Anna into the kitchen, Wanda blurts out with little subtlety. "So, you're a Jewish nun," telling her that her real name is Ida Lebenstein and that she was brought to the convent as an infant after her family was murdered by either the Nazis or the locals.

On the surface, Wanda is the sinner and Ida is the saint, but, as the film progresses, these distinctions become blurred and each is revealed as a multi-layered human being whose mysteries are not easily penetrated. When Ida asks to visit the grave where her parents are buried, Wanda tells her that "they have no graves," but both know that they must seek to find those responsible for the crimes. Wanda is aggressive as she tries to track down the guilty, but the search is more of a psychological journey to find closure than a desire for revenge. Along the way, Ida, an innocent motivated by faith, listens to the more experienced Wanda who tells her to live her life fully while she has the chance.

While it is difficult to know with any certainty what Ida thinks about the idea, she hesitatingly samples the secular life in a romantic relationship with Lis, a handsome saxophone player (Dawid Ogrodnick) who has a gig at their hotel, removing her habit and literally and figuratively letting her hair down. When Lis invites her to go to the beach with him, she asks, "What then?" When he replies, "Marriage and a family," she asks again, "Well, what then?" His answer is that we just go on to live our life, a notion that Ida seems to recoil from, but carefully guards her emotions.

Ida is a quiet film but masks the characters' inner torment. There is little dialogue but thanks to the direction and the strong but understated performances, especially from nonprofessional Trzebuchowska, the film becomes a hypnotic, if enigmatic experience. While Ida raises the question about whether or not it is best to live with comfortable illusions or seek an often painful truth, viewers are left to decide the answer for themselves.
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Few new revelations in Polish post-Holocaust melodrama as 'The Song of Bernadette' meets 'The Pawnbroker'
Turfseer5 June 2014
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.
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An half-religious half-road trip
BeneCumb23 December 2014
The reason I watched this film was to find out why it has got so much praise. And the length - 1 hour 15 minutes - was also OK... As for black-and-white, it was not annoying (usually I am too much into colour films, excl. those of Chaplin and Lloyd, for example), but provided a good emphasis on general mood and miserable environment in post- Stalinist Poland. Well, all socialist countries looked gray and untidy.

Direction and cinematography are very good, but the plot is too thin and tedious, there is no real intrigue as I could guess almost all its elements, including the trivial ending. Potential hesitations were depicted narrowly, and a lot of silent scenes were dedicated to Catholicism - suitable to Poland, but rather uninviting for me. As for acting, then Agata Kulesza as Wanda Gruz is great indeed, but the rest - just good, not memorable.

All in all, a static telecast rather than a film with witty angles. Art for film's sake - or vice versa.
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A Novice Nun, High-Heels, And A Dashing Saxophone Player
strong-122-47888531 July 2015
Well, I do have to give Polish director, Pawel Pawlikowski credit for 2 things in regards to this mind-numbingly bleak tale about a novice nun's change of heart - And that credit goes to -

(1) The very effective use of stark, b&w photography. Yes. At times this sort of camera-work was actually quite impressive to behold.

(2) Not going completely cliché with this film's excruciatingly slow-paced story and turning it into a Romeo & Juliet picture. 'Cause, believe me, with the introduction of the Lis character into this miserable, little tale, I was certain that we were all in for yet another reworking of Shakespeare's tale of tragic, star-crossed love (post-WW2 style). But, thankfully director Pawlikowski spared us this torture.

What makes this truly morbid (and equally depressing) film such a contrast to American films is that if you're waiting for something/anything to actually happen, then you're gonna have to be awfully patient - 'Cause everything in Ida's story is offered up in such small, miserable portions. And this, in turn, is bound to leave the viewer, for the most part, quite dissatisfied.

In conclusion - When it comes to "entertainment value", this is definitely the sort of film that requires that the viewer cut it a lot of slack, and, in doing so, not expect to get any joy out of its story in return.
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