Poland, 1962. Anna is a novice, an orphan brought up by nuns in a convent. Before she takes her vows, she is determined to see Wanda, her only living relative. Wanda tells Anna that Anna is Jewish. Both women embark on a journey not only to discover their tragic family story, but who they really are and where they belong, questioning their religions and beliefs.
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★★★★★ review by Lise on Letterboxd
The quick & dirty from TIFF 2013
Director Pawel Pawlikowski introduced the film and the more he spoke the more I was was falling in love. Here is a man I respect. He's a straight-shooter. He wanted to be clear about something: his film was about the characters. The characters weren't stand-ins for some political agenda, they didn't represent ideological principles, he wasn't making any grandiose statements. What you see is what you get, and what you see is a story about two women and how past decisions influence their current choices. I sat listening to him and wanted nothing more than to go give him a big hug in thanks. I wanted to thank him for being down-to-earth, for declaring that he wasn't a pretentious "arteeest" setting out to make a film that "really meant" something completely different than what you were seeing. Good for him. I'm fairly certain I said that bit out loud.
Ida is a simple of film of two complicated characters who meet for the first time and are left to navigate very deep and personal issues. Ida grew up in a convent and is just about to take her vows. Her only living relative wants to meet her to give her information. We then follow both of them as discover their common history together and we see how each character affects the other.
The story is simple and beautiful.
Director Pawel Pawlikowski wanted to make a simple story with no fluff or distractions. Shot in Academy ratio (1:33) black and white, the unusual framing is gorgeous.
Ida is that breath of fresh air one needs after seeing too many films that all look the same. Ida is that gem that one needs after seeing too many plot devices. Ida is that film that regenerates one's love of cinema.
★★★★½ review by Eli Hayes on Letterboxd
I mean, My Summer of Love was very, very solid, but... what the hell, Pawel Pawlikowski? Where did this come from!? A seriously astonishing work of beauty from a filmmaker that just jumped from being good to being great, at least in my book. The perfect framing of each wonderfully crafted scene; the fascinating dynamic between the two protagonists; everything. Everything about this movie was just gorgeous, and the third act was particularly astonishing. Almost reminded me a bit of Bergman at times, which I don't mean as anything but an enormous compliment. Ida slowly absorbs you with its spell until you don't even realize that it has stolen you completely away from reality and into its bleak, dichotomous world. I wish I had caught this one in the theater (and I envy all of you that did). Would have been nothing short of remarkable. Scratch that, even watching it on DVD was remarkable.
Oh yeah, and that shot of her spinning in the curtain - a little nod to Terrence Malick? Or Lynne Ramsay, perhaps? You really know how to earn bonus points with me... don't ya, Pawel!?
★★★★★ review by Jonathan White on Letterboxd
TIFF 2013 – film#5
Reason for pick: Director Pawel Pawlikowski - My Summer of Love
My lovely wife has done it again. Unearthed another gem at TIFF.
Ida took me completely by surprise. I thought Summer of Love was charming, and was expecting another thoughtful, gentle tale. This was not to be. While Ida is also a study of two women, that’s where the similarities end. Before the presentation began, director Pawlikowski asked us not to read political comment into the story, but rather just try to experience the characters. 1962 was a divisive time for Christians and Jews in Poland. Ida is more about faith and choices, rather than politics and religion.
Shot in Academy Ratio, and black and white, the first thing that leaps out at you is the striking cinematography and composition. Characters are framed in corners, or in the lower third of the shot. This lends an almost ethereal feel. The wonderfully textured use of light and shadow evokes a feeling of the time. Ida looks like a work of art. Score is entirely absent; except for the infectious and seductive live music.
Anna was abandoned at birth, given up to the Nuns. The only life she’s ever known is the convent, and she is now approaching an age where she can take her vows and enter the Sisterhood. Shortly before the event is to take place, the Mother Superior informs her that she has a living relative, and urges her to see her before taking her vows. She shows up at her Aunt Wanda’s house, and isn’t exactly greeted with open arms. She receives a photograph of her mother, informed that her name is, in reality, Ida, told that her parents were murdered, and given the news that she’s Jewish, … then shown the door.
Wanda is an alcoholic communist party judge, and former ruthless state prosecutor. She knows how to enjoy life, and although she tries, she doesn’t, really. She’s tortured by her demons, and uses every means she can to escape them.
After some consideration, Wanda changes her mind, and catches Ida before catches her train back to the convent. This is the beginning of their journey together. Ida wishes to see her parents graves. Wanda has never made the journey to find them, lost so long ago, somewhere in the farms or forests of Poland, and you can feel that’s she’s not keen on opening those wounds.
What follows is a road trip movie like none other I’ve seen. A truly wonderful, touching, sad, but sometimes funny journey of discovery, faith, faith lost, and the road not taken. I’ve made it sound trite, and rather hallmark, but it truly isn’t. The simple story and the wondrous cinematography fit like hand in glove, and you truly feel you’re on the journey with them. Agata Kulesza as Ida, and Agata+Kulesza as Wanda give incredible, nuanced performances.
A true gem, and my favourite of the fest so far.
★★★★ review by Sam Van Hallgren on Letterboxd
Very different films, obviously, but had me thinking of BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR in the way that it's about a young woman's first encounter with Life. 10-15 years ago, I may have taken IDA's ending as a cynical commentary on the emptiness of secular existence. But now at 40, I see it for what it is: as with BLUE, simply an early chapter in a book yet to be written.
Of course drop dead gorgeous cinematography. So gorgeous, in fact, I wondered if I should be suspicious: was its beauty appropriate given the subject matter? But then the formality of the framing, the camera's calm stillness is a reflection of Anna/Ida's faith - and her innocence - isn't it? With God - or something - filling most of the frame. And then we get that last shot of the film, which reflects either the rampart of faith a-tumblin' down'; or just the burden of carrying around a faith that has finally been tested.
I also admired the film's depiction of a country figuring out how to move into the future - and celebrate its past - with so much fresh blood on its hands. Haunting.
★★★½ review by SilentDawn on Letterboxd
Continuously a cinematographic triumph and a moody study of a crossroads of faith; Ida is a film that kept me quietly in a state of enrapture and focus. While it'll never be a film I will watch again, mainly because of the distressing and dense subject matter that didn't really resonate with me, I cannot deny that I was in consistent awe throughout the brisk 82 minute runtime. Visually, It's a stunner. Emotionally, It's quite distant.
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