Sunday, June 01, 2014

Ida (2013 film)

Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski and written by Pawlikowski and Rebecca Lenkiwicz, Ida is the story of a young woman who is about to become a nun as she visits her aunt as they embark on a road trip to find out about her parents. Set in 1960s Poland, the film is an exploration of a young woman who deals with who she is and where she comes from just as she is about to take her vows. Starring Agata Trzebuchowska, Agata Kulesza, and Dawid Ogrodnik. Ida is a rapturous yet compelling film from Pawel Pawlikowski.

Set in 1960s Poland during its socialist period, the film is about a woman who is weeks away from taking her vows and become a nun as she is ordered by her mother superior to meet with her aunt whom she had never met. Upon meeting her Aunt Wanda (Agata Kulesza), Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) learns about her parents as well as her real name in Ida Lebenstein as the two take a road trip to find the bodies of Ida’s parents where Wanda wants to know about what happened to her sister and her husband. It’s not just a road film in some respects but also a film that has two women not only seeking some answers about themselves.

The film’s screenplay doesn’t just explore the major differences between Wanda and Anna/Ida but also what they both want in this journey. Wanda is a judge/former prosecutor for the government who is teetering on the edge as she is an alcoholic that hasn’t gotten over her sister’s death as she would also reveal to Ida into why she never took care of her. Upon their journey on the road, Anna not only tries to keep her faith intact but also encounter temptation for the very first time as she meets a young jazz musician Lis (Dawid Ogrodnik) whom she and Wanda picked up while on the road. Upon their discovery about Anna’s parents and what did happen to them, the journey does come to an end of sorts but there is also a continuation for Anna in her own personal journey. Especially as the third act becomes about the decision she would make about whether to take her vows or experience the things that people her age are doing.

Pawel Pawlikowski’s direction definitely takes a lot of cues from Ingmar Bergman not just visually but also in the way he explores faith. While the film is shot in a 1:37:1 full-frame aspect ratio, Pawlikowski does make the film seem like something that could be made in the 1960s while staying true to the period. While there’s moments in the film where there isn’t a lot of dialogue, it plays into these two women embarking on a journey as Pawlikowski uses a lot of wide shots to capture the look of the Polish countryside as well as display some religious imagery as it is a reminder of what Anna has to do. Even as Pawlikowski’s approach to the framing and compositions showcase a world that is quite lively despite the political climate of what was happening at the time as it would play into her own temptation.

The usage of close-ups and medium shots also play into some of the emotional aspect as it would come into play for the film’s third act after the road trip where Anna and Wanda each diverge into their own separate journeys. Especially as the former has to be deal with her own temptations and sins as well as make some decisions about what choice she should make. One of which has to involve not just her devotion to her faith and the vows she has to take but also what she wants as a young woman who hasn’t experienced the things the outside world offers. Overall, Pawlikowski creates a very eerie yet intoxicating film about a young woman exploring her roots and her struggle with her faith.

Cinematographers Lukasz Zal and Rysard Lenczewski do phenomenal work with the film‘s black-and-white photography as it is visually-striking for not just the way the snow looked but also into many of the film‘s locations as well as some of the interiors as the lighting schemes and shades add to the eerie tone of the film. Editor Jaroslaw Kaminski does nice work with the editing as it‘s mostly straightforward while not going for any kind of style as it only adds to the methodical tone of the drama. Production designers Marcel Slawinski and Katarzyna Sobanska-Strzalkowska do excellent work with the set pieces from the hotels and places the two women go to as well as Wanda‘s apartment that showcases the tumultuous world that she lives in.

Costume designers Ola Staszko and Agata Winska do wonderful work with the costumes from the stylish dresses that Wanda wears to the more plain look of Anna/Ida in her nun wardrobe. The visual effects work of Michal Herman and Radoslaw Rekita is nice for some of the minimal set dressing to play into the period setting of the film. Sound editor Claus Lynge does superb work with the intimacy of the sound from the way music sounds from another room as well as the intimacy in some of the quieter locations. The film’s music by Kristian Eidnes Andersen is fantastic for its low-key orchestral-based score as the soundtrack also include some jazz and classical pieces.

The casting by Alina Falana is amazing as the film features some notable small roles from Adam Szyszkowski as a farmer who owns the home that Anna’s parents lived in, Jerzy Trela as the farmer’s ailing father, and Joanna Kulig as the jazz singer who fronts the band that Lis is playing in. Dawid Ogrodnik is excellent as Lis as this jazz saxophonist who meets Wanda and Anna as he intrigues the latter while he also represents a more innocent form of temptation. Agata Kulesza is great as Anna’s aunt Wanda who is a woman still troubled by the death of her sister as she sinks her sorrows in alcohol while trying to come to terms with that loss and how much Anna reminds her of her sister. Finally, there’s Agata Trzebuchowska in an astounding debut film role as the titular character as a young woman who is about to become a nun as she embarks on a journey that forces her to realize who she is while facing a world that she knows little about as she tries to come to term with her identity and her faith.

Ida is a remarkable film from Pawel Pawlikowski that features an incredible breakthrough performance from Agata Trzebuchowska. While it’s not an easy film to watch as it has a few pacing issues, it is still a captivating film that does explore a young woman seeking to find out who she is and where she comes from while facing the outside world as she struggles to maintain her faith during a troubled time in 1960s Poland. In the end, Ida is a marvelous film from Pawel Pawlikowski.

Pawel Pawlikowski Films: (Last Resort (2000 film)) - My Summer of Love - (The Woman in the Fifth) - Cold War

© thevoid99 2014


Anonymous said...

Excellent review! I've heard so many good things about this one. I really can't wait to see it.

thevoid99 said...

Thank you. I hope you enjoy it though it's not an easy film to watch despite the fact that it's only 80 minutes long yet it's still worth recommending.