Marking the first time that Pawel Pawlikowski has shot a film in his native Poland, ‘Ida’ was always going to have that poignant edge to it, and the story that Pawlikowski is telling here definitely has a lot of that. A tale about a young novice nun and her search for the truth about her past, it’s a hard-hitting and profound film that examines its characters and their changing hopes, fears and pain with a deft touch that allows the realism to shine through. The revelations and shifting world views of Ida, the aforementioned nun, in particular are never bookmarked with meaningful, sad music, and the film makes sure not to tell you how to feel, another feature that is always welcome.
Agata Trzebuchowska is a revelation as the titular character, her performance is quiet and understated but steals every frame, even though Agata Kulesza also puts in a great performance as her standoffish, alcoholic aunt who reveals the nature of Ida’s past to her. The two Agatas have great chemistry, and their stark differences in personality make their ability to console one another all the more powerful, as their dark quest begins to reach a climax.
As well as being emotionally resonant it’s also beautiful to look at, Pawlikowski’s decision to film in black and white heightens the sense of bareness that the film is trying for, but the beautiful cinematography by Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski makes the monochrome shimmer, wonderful landscape shots of snow and the general Polish countryside forming an epic backdrop for a story that is so personal, giving us an idea of the scale of the story.
‘Ida’ is a wonderfully filmed and well told story that is as much about a character finding themselves and discovering that they may be something different to what they thought as it is about the dark things in her past. The juxtaposition of characters works very well, and the way it’s shot evokes the Polish setting beautifully. It’s a triumph for Pawlikowski, who may considering continuing to use Poland as the backdrop in future films.
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