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Ida Review: A Beautiful Story of Hard Choices

IDA, a film by Pawel Pawlikowsk


This writer has an affinity for Post New Wave Eastern European cinema. Filmmakers living in Eastern Europe in the 1950s and the 1960s (Milos Foreman and Roman Polanski are the ones that had the most success in mainstream American Cinema) had lived under the two extremes of totalitarian governments-the Nazis (Fascism) and the Soviets (Communism) in their lifetimes. Being forced to conform and repress themselves on a continual basis certainly affected them and gave them plenty to say through their art.
Ida (directed by Paweł Pawlikowski and written by Rebecca Lenkiewicz) has the feel of the Post New Wave Eastern European cinema. It follows the story of Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska, whose performance and expressive eyes are so moving in this film, she was born to play a woman who has to repress herself and hopefully we’ll see her and many more films in the future) a novice num who is on the verge of her vows when her mother superior tells her to visit her only living relative, her aunt Wanda (Agata Kulesza, also wonderful in this film). Anna learns that her real name is Ida Lebenstein and that her Jewish parents were murdered during the Nazi occupation of Poland. She and her Aunt decide to set out together to find where her parents were buried to get closure.
While Ida has been living a life of conformity, obedience and personal repression in her religious order (the audience gets to see a few images early in the film and is allowed to make that deduction themselves rather than having Ida talk about it in a conversation with Wanda. Images have as much or more importance than conversation in this film), the audience discovers that while Wanda appears to be more at liberty to live her life than Ida; she has been living with secrets. Being a high powered prosecutor during the Stalinist Soviet occupation of Poland has forced her to live in just as much repression as Ida. Her actions throughout the film show just how much has affected her.
It’s hard to not go into spoilers too much, but the themes, images and stories play out beautifully in this film. Ida ultimately has to make a choice between two lives of conformity, and her choice could certainly spark up a lot of discussion among audience members. This writer will probably buy the DVD for this film.