Ida photo starrating-3andahalfstars.jpgRoad movie about a religiously minded woman who joins forces with a skeptic. The two travelers are on a quest to uncover a truth obscured by a scandalous history. If that sounds like I’m describing 2013’s Philomena, you‘d be making the same associations as I. Yet there is a major difference. That Best Picture nominee was like a sentimentalized fabrication of Hollywood by comparison. Ida is the story of an orphaned teenager (Agata Trzebuchowska) in 1960s Poland on her away to becoming a nun. Before Ida’s vows can be taken, however, she is instructed to first pay a visit to her aunt Wanda (Agata Kulesza). Her only living relative has served Poland’s Stalinist regime as a former justice with an infamous reputation as a hanging judge.

A stark environment boldly highlights Ida’s introduction into a world she has never experienced. Through it all we are mesmerized by her face, a quiet 18 year old who has been fairly sheltered thus far in her young existence. Ida’s reactions are rather dependent on visual cues. Her beautiful but stoic countenance barely registering the range of varying emotions you know she deeply understands. Her devout behavior is a contrast to Wanda, a woman who smokes, drinks, and enjoys the company of men. Wanda reveals notable details of Ida’s life with an unblinking pragmatism.

Ida is an anti-movie in today’s world of visually enhanced 3D, color saturated computer generated imagery. Austere, black and white cinematography utilizes a 4:3 aspect ratio. It’s not in widescreen folks. Did I mention it has subtitles? It’s slow moving and subdued, but still a deeply felt contemplation. The production is full of beautifully composed compositions in somber detail. I sensed the inspiration of director Ingmar Bergman. You might perceive Roberto Rossellini.  Ida’s spiritual expedition is an awakening. But it’s also an examination of her aunt. This is actually the study of two women: the worldly vs. the innocent.  Their pilgrimage, both a physical and mental one, plays out over a scant 80 minutes. It definitely feels longer given the deliberate pace of the narrative. Still, the picture is never boring as Ida’s journey of self discovery is consistently compelling.


12 Responses to “Ida”

  1. Lovely review. Can’t wait to see this, it sounds amazing.


  2. Have not heard much about this, but considering what I just read in your review for Jersey Boys, this sounds like a much better go-to option at the Downtown West theater for me. ill put Eastwood’s film on the back burner for now and try this out soon. Great review!


    • You’ve been my go-to blogger for art house pictures. I’m shocked I saw this one before you. It’s getting phenomenal reviews. I liked it. Not enough to justify the 94% RT score but I’m glad I saw it.


      • Haha! That’s great! I am glad I’ve been able to produce a few indie reviews. I actually was about to see this the other day, but I ended up working a night shift and so I haven’t been able to get to it yet. But I will be soon. 🙂


  3. Side by side, this had a lot of similarities to “Philomena”, just like you said. I didn’t mind that. I liked the strength of Ida, she was a strong woman, and for the most part, stuck to her faith. At first, I didn’t understand why she strayed, when she did, but after discussing it, I got it. 3 stars. Would have been higher with a better ending.


  4. I don’t think I’ve heard anything about this film prior to your review. Now I feel like I have to check it out. Sounds fascinating despite its stripped down style.


  5. I’m obviously in the minority since I didn’t really feel this was worthy of a nomination in the Best Foreign Film category. My tastes was leaning more towards Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night. This year’s nominees all seem to be rather stark tales. I think Ida was meh and I had to reach for 3 stars. Anything less was not deserved because I thought the cinematographic style was gorgeous and effective in conveying the loneliness and starkness of their post Holocaust Poland, and yet, I couldn’t rate it higher because of it’s simplicity and slow pace as it was incredibly dull for me.

    My review:

    Interesting personal and intimate study of two distinctly different women searching for their identities and their resulting life decisions – who they were based on their past, who they are today, and who they are as a result of unveiling a long hidden family secret in post Holocaust Poland. While the pace is extremely slow, it is through this very method along with the purposeful off centered framing cinematographic style in black and white that effectively captures the austere weight of the tragic history in every scene; the loneliness is palpable when set in the largess and emptiness of a sweeping staircase, or in the middle of a large open field or deep within a heavily wooded forest. As with non American indie films, the story centers entirely between the interaction of two actors, and, in this case, one is rather physically and verbally dramatic whereas the other is quite stoic due to her sheltered upbringing. The effect on each of them as the secret is unraveled is quite powerful. This film should be seen on the silver screen as I’m afraid it’s quiet intensity was lost on me when I streamed this on my PC via Netflix.


  6. Just as an addendum, I thought it was an interesting dichotomy in mixing up the good guy vs the bad guy concepts:
    – Ida was always illuminated in light and dressed in light greys. Her “goodness” was highlighted with her simple, peaceful, angelic demeanor and morally superior catholic newbie nun behavior.
    – Aunt Wanda was the worldly sinner partaking in life’s gluttony due to her cynicism as a result of living through the Holocaust and being a bit too quick to condemn war criminals to death. She was always dressed in black and dark clothing with very scarlet lips that popped off the black and white screen.

    The scorned Jew who has the moral justification resorts to revenge and the other seemingly rejects her ethnic birthright after exploring a bit of carnal pleasures. Which has fallen further? Black vs white, good vs evil, innocent vs worldly – all the lines are blurred by the end of the film.


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