By Darin Skaggs
Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida is a look on religion that paints it in neither a positive or negative light. It tells the tale of Anna, a to-be nun, who before taking her vows has to visit her Aunt Wanda who is her last living relative. Wanda is the complete opposite of Anna, she drinks, she smokes and she is sexually active with multiple partners. The two could not be more different yet they travel to find out where Anna’s parents have been buried.
The movie is filmed in beautiful black and white which sets its tone for the gloomy era of 1960’s Poland. During the course of the film Anna finds out she is Jewish, even though she is becoming a Catholic nun. In that process she even finds out her name is not even Anna, it is Ida. In the course of her trip, which the church sent her on; she loses her whole identity and does not know who she really is. On the road trip that she and Wanda take she learns what has happened in her family’s dark past. This takes its toll on Ida and makes her question her whole way of life. It seems to take the side that religion is bad and can break you down, but then there is Wanda. She takes Ida on this trip and finds out basically the same thing about her family that Ida does. So the film challenges both ways of living. These two live their lives morally different yet they get the same result. It does not come down on either of them for their way of life; it just says bad things happen to everyone. Obeying or disobeying God won’t stop that. The last act hints towards a positive religious message, then turns itself on its head again and gives a good reason for the other side.
This film is gloomy, but the way it is made is absolutely gorgeous. There is nothing really to show off, but they find beauty in the simplicity of the sets. There are constant shots of character’s heads that are framed in the bottom corners and the rest filled with the usually bland or snow filled background. They are simple shots but so well done and placed you can’t help but love them. Ida is, for most of the film, dressed as a nun and because of the snowy background and plain walls she blends into the environment, which says a lot about her character.
Trzebuchowska and Kulesza play Ida and Wanda, respectively, quite wonderfully. They both play characters that start out fully aware that they are at different points in life and at times do not like each other. They slowly bond even though they have almost nothing in common in the qualifications they give themselves. Near the end they find emotionally they are parallel. This comes out in the very subtle performances and subtle greatness in the script as well.
Ida is slow, black and white and very quiet yet it is one that will leave one of the biggest emotional impacts of the year. It is one of the best shot and better to look at this year; images will stay with you for a good while.