June 12, 2014 at 1:17 pm | Posted in 2014 | Leave a comment
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◊ ◊ ◊ ½

“Ida” (pronounced ee-da) continually reminded me of the German film, “The White Ribbon” in tone, imagery and sound.  These stark Polish film takes place in the early 1960s as a young nun novice goes on a journey of discovery when she discovers she is actually Jewish.  Her efforts to uncover her past transform her and those around her.  This is not easy stuff.  Any time you are dealing with the Holocaust, you are going to encounter the darkest parts of the human experience. What differentiates European storytelling from American storytelling is how understated it is.  This often fails for me (think of the French film, “Stranger by the Lake” from earlier this year) because it can rob a film of tension.  However, when the subject matter is already wrought with with emotion, this more subtle approach can be so powerful where American cinema tends to be heavy handed and melodramatic.  The film is black and white and each image is so lavish it could have been it’s own framed photograph.  The director, Pawel Pawlikowski’s, eye for detail is astonishing.  Often, I was drawn to the smallest details, like what was happening over a person’s shoulder; not relevant to the plot but completely relevant to the mood.  Everything in this world speaks of isolation and decay.  The film has no score beyond a few songs played by a band or on a record player.  Many scenes happen in complete silence, adding to the depth of emptiness the film exudes.  The lead actress, Agata Trzebuchowska, was unearthly as the young nun.  Not only was her cold reserve a perfect fit for the mood of the film but her preternaturally black eyes made her look otherworldly, undead almost.  Agata Kulesza, who played her aunt, is a well established Polish actress.  She brought a needed bite to the film. Her character’s wry, sarcastic and jaded observations were a nice contrast to Ida’s innocence. She brought some humor to the story and, more importantly, she was the character the audience could relate to.  There should be no surprise in my saying that the film does not end happily but it does end exactly as it should.  There is some comfort in that.



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