Director: Pawel Pawlikowski
Writers: Pawel Pawlikowski, Rebecca Lenkiewicz
Stars: Agata Kulesza, Agata Trzebuchowska, Dawid Ogrodnik
Production: Poland | Denmark | France | UK
Duration: 82 min
Ida is a strong, uncompromising film, whose immense power and raw beauty are indisputable. This is a winner film. Magnetic, raw, real. For its direction, its content, its everything. Yes, "Ida" is my favorite 2014 film and a masterpiece.
1960s, Poland. Anna is a young novitiate nun and about to take her vows. She was brought up by nuns and was nurtured with Christianity. Before she takes the ultimate step she is urged by her superior to visit her last living relative, her aunt. Wanda is a formerly powerful judge of the regime, now an alcoholic and full with guilt. She meets with Anna and unfolds the secret story of her real identity. Anna is Jewish and her name is Ida.
A lost secret family chronicle will be revealed to Anna - now Ida - frustrating her innocent and pure soul. She will decide to follow Walda on a journey of discovering her past, what happened to her parents and why her aunt is so depressed.
This poetic depiction of the lost past of Ida guides the narration in a delicate and profound way. The subtle direction, infused with an amazing composition of frames, together with the profound silence offer few clue elements that are mostly hints on where the path of Ida is going in life.
Pawlikowski chooses to show with his frames - through the cameras of the talented cinematographers Ryszard Lenczewski and Lukasz Zal - an unprecedented intensity in those two women's lives. This films has such an integrity, it knows what is doing and where is going, and this is one of the things that add up to its greatness.
The framing of the shots plays a crucial role in the poetic illustration of life and especially of Ida's life. Concealing or intensifying details or even changing the center of attention has unexpected results. You feel there present, but not in the way you think. You feel you see more than you are shown, you sense everything that happens on screen, the characters' pain, feelings and so much more. You get lost but this is the magic of it.
Ida will be faced with life itself, her choices and dreams, her own destiny. Wanda will be faced with her own past and the guilt she carries for years about choosing the regime instead of her family. Redemption will struggle to find its way through those women's lives and love will unfold again in order to transform the painful past.
Both Agata Kulesza and Agata Trzebuchowska, the first experienced and the second in her acting debut, synchronize their performances creating a harmonic but intense acting duet. The crudeness expressed with the extraordinary black and white photography helps them achieve what I call symmetrical beauty in the film. They fill each other and their relationship. With the determination of the one and the submission of the other, those two characters evolve, creating something unique.
This magnetic film talks about the power of choice, the burden of guilt and the darkness of lost secrets. It opens a dialog about desperation, devotion but above all about human connection beyond any kind of religion. Religion is just a shelter, a cover, something to help people define their identities. But people give power to people. And actions fuel people's lives. And we shouldn't forget this.