Pawel Pawlikowski’s Homecoming Film a Cinematic Tour de Force
Pawel Pawlikowski’s first film made in his homeland Poland, Ida is the story of an orphan, Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) who is brought up in a convent. Anna is a young, reclusive girl who wishes to take her vows and join the Church. A week before she is meant to take her vows, she sets out to meet her only living relative after much persuasion from the Mother Superior—an aunt whom she has never met. Wanda Gruz (Agata Kulesza) is a tough but lonely woman, notorious for sentencing priests and others to death and is a Jew. When Anna meets Wanda, she learns that she, too, is Jewish and that her real name is Ida. Anna discovers that her parents were killed in WWII and sets her mind to find their graves. This revelation puts Anna and Wanda together on a journey which will eventually lead them to find their past and each other.
The stunning documentation of this liberating journey is paired beautifully with the shadow play and stark contrasts in Ida’s visual language. It is a bold film questioning the ideals of nature versus nurture, in which young Anna, on the brink of absolute surrender to the Church, must choose between her true identity and the religion that inadvertently saved her from the Nazi massacres. Their scarred history is now their haunting reality, where both Anna and Wanda try to confront the demons of their past.
Shot beautifully in black and white, with is poetic imagery and long periods of absolute silence, Ida is a tribute to the austere genre of cinema. It is a superb combination of acting, script, music and cinematography leaving a lasting emotional impact. It is one thing to create black-and-white compositions, but Pawlikowski’s true genius lies in his ability to keep the audience glued to their seats through its inscrutable narration. Trzebuchowska is perfectly cast with her wide, almost lifeless eyes and a lasting gaze as she constantly looks for answers. Kulesza effortlessly portrays the cynical communist who is reluctant to dredge up painful memories of the choices she made in the past. There is a lot left unsaid in the film, and gaps are filled with the use of music, inexplicable pauses and light (or the lack of it). Pawlikowski invites the audience on the very same journey that Anna/Ida and Wanda make, leaving questions unanswered and decisions unmade. It is a profoundly graphic and moving narrative of the courageous choice between religious beliefs and family.
*Director Pawel Pawlikowski in attendance
Second screening: Fri 11/01/2013 20:45 VOX 5