Thursday, December 18, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Ida (2014) ****

PG-13, 82 min.
Director: Pawel Pawlikowski
Writers: Pawel Pawlikowski, Rebecca Lenkiewicz
Starring: Agata Trzebuchowska, Agata Kulesza, Dawid Ogrodnik

If you haven’t heard of the Polish film “Ida”, then you will if you pay any attention to the Foreign Film categories at the Golden Globes and Oscars. Considering how well it did on almost every top ten list at the end of this year, it will most likely take home the golden statues from them. It deserves the attention it’s getting. It is one of those simple, beautiful films that allow you appreciate life for what it is while reflecting on its greatest horrors.

Ida is an orphan raised in a convent about to take her vows to become a nun. Before he can take her vows, the Mother Superior informs sends her to her only living relative, an aunt who informs her she is Jewish and refused to take her when her parents were killed in the World War II. The story takes place in 1962. The people of Poland are still coming to terms with the events that transpired during the war, in which neighbors betrayed each other and many gave their lives while others took them.

The aunt is an abrupt woman. She has spent the years since the war as a barrister, enforcing the laws and helping to form the new Poland that rises from the ashes of the war. Ida is a fragile creature in the shadow of this woman, having been shaped by the kindness and shelter of the convent. Ida forces her aunt to face the past, however, and sets her on a course to uncover a truth about their family that has remained a secret since the war.

Pawel Pawlikowski’s debut feature film is a thing of beauty. Shot in black and white, it seems to take place in a world that is still covered in the shadow of the war. I can’t imagine this film in color. Black and white is the only way in which to serve this story. Pawlikowski’s camera peers into its subjects. Agata Trzebuchowska is a natural beauty with a magnetism that cannot be described. She attracts the attention of a young jazz musician at a hotel they stay at during their investigation into her parents’ deaths. It’s hard to believe she is an untrained actor in observing her ability to pull the camera into her eyes as she quietly observes the world around her.

Pawlikowski frames his images in an almost peculiar manner, often with his characters only filling a small fraction of the screen. The technique places the people into a definitive environment. They exist in this world that wants to stand as a monument against the truth. The buildings loom over them. The tress in the forest are only trunks, they’re so tall. It all hides a very personal truth. And it is Ida who holds a reservoir of strength her aunt cannot imagine. 

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