Star – Agata Trzebuchowskais.
Genre – World Cinema > Drama
Run Time – 90 minutes
Certificate – PG13
Country – Poland
Oscars – 1 Win & 1 nomination
Awards – 66 Wins & 83 Nominations
Amazon – £8.07 DVD £8.99 Blue Ray
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Over the years films about Jewish persecution have scored well at The Oscars, disproportionately so, almost out of encouraged compassion for the Holocaust if the truth be told. Hollywood is very Jewish. As you all know we are not allowed to forget that atrocity and rightfully so. These films are rarely the best of the year but often extremely powerful. Schindlers List remains my favorite movie of all time. Polish black & white film Ida is more of the same and the winner of the ‘Best Film in a Foreign Language’ category at the 2015 Oscars, alongside a nomination for Best Cinematography. It stars debut actress Agata Trzebuchowska, a beautiful blonde student with no prior acting experience. It needed someone with innocence of those times to make this work.
• Agata Trzebuchowska as Ida Lebenstein/Anna
• Agata Kulesza as Wanda Gruz
• Joanna Kulig as a singer
• Dawid Ogrodnik as Lis, a saxophonist
• Adam Szyszkowski as Feliks Skiba
• Jerzy Trela as Szymon Skiba
It’s the early 1960s and a young novice nun (Agata Trzebuchowska), known as Anna to her order, is preparing to take her final vows in rural Poland. But before she does she wants to spend some time to find out what happened to her family in the war. All she knows was she was left in an orphanage when she was a little baby and ended up a nun. To help her quest she looks up her only surviving relative, an aunt called Wanda Gruz (Agata Kulesza), who knows all about the Nazis and what went on in Poland
The first revelation from Wanda is Anna was born Jewish and her real name is Ida Lebenstein. From then on in the news can only be bad as they set out to the countryside to discover Anna’s parent’s fete. Wanda was a Polish resistance fighter and a colorful character, booze, men and jazz still her thing. Wanda knows her sister and brother-in-law were murdered by Polish citizens and it’s not long before they track down the killer, an old man on his sickbed who wants to confess to Anna. In the war the Poles were coerced to hand over the Jews for the death camps or lynch them and would often take the properties and the wealth of the families they killed, making it easy to track down both killers and killed in the future. If you were told by a military junta in charge it was OK to do that it’s amazing how many people did do exactly that. Some even enjoyed it.
As they move deeper into the country they learn more secrets and locate the graves of the Lebenstein’s. The time together with Wanda allows Anna to experience Wanda’s less ordered world as Ida sips the joys of boys, wine and dance halls. For Wanda the memories being dragged up are all too painful and for both women a journey that will test both their Catholic faith and whether they can continue their future paths...
I felt obliged to watch this because it won an Oscar, simple as. As I said it’s clearly not the best foreign film of that year but ticks all the arty and political boxes to win that Oscar. Last year the Son of Saul ticked those same boxes to win this category. Next year it my well be a hatrick. African, Muslim and Armenian genocide films tend not to have the same clout in Hollywood.
Director Pawel Pawlikowski pulled on his own background for the film script and locations. His Polish mother was Catholic, his father was Jewish, and he learned late in life that his grandmother had died in Auschwitz. The film and director drew some controversy on that mix with the inference in the film that most Christians had no problem handing over the Jews for the death camps or had no problem killing them in the woods to keep their farms and houses. In fact 40,000 Poles were executed for hiding Jews in Poland and I’m guessing a whole lot more didn’t get caught that were doing it. An accusation has been made that the Poles killed more Jews than Germans.
Ironically, despite playing a woman on the cusp of becoming a nun, actress Agata Trzebuchowskais is an atheist. That may have helped her aloof and impressive performance as a character unaware of her countries history and her family trees fete. Agata Kulesza as Wanda Gruz is also good and shooting the film in black & white really adds the appropriate atmosphere and bleak period feel to Eastern European Poland back then.
Art film and foreign movie fans will enjoy this as it’s what they like. As far as a movie experience goes its OK and watchable. It’s atmospheric over interesting end moody over involving but never dull, which often happens with these films. It has that classic 1950/60s film look and the coming of age themes and emotions explored through immaculate framed shots and visual metaphors are compelling.
It did OK in the box office for its contextual look and performance but the Oscar win made its profit, its $1.2 million dollars pulling back $11 million. As I say its not one of the best Oscar winners for this category I have seen but still solid European cinema. It’s on of these arty films you know what you are going to get by the cover. Sometimes I think I’m thee only person on ciao that watches foreign films on opinion sites.
Imdb.com – 7.4 /10.0 (38,875,votes)
Rottentomatos.com – 96% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – 91% critic’s approval
-Behind the Scenes-
All in subtitles so worth a miss
Rolling stone – ‘Now that Paweł Pawlikowski's haunting Polish film has been nominated for a foreign-language Oscar, Ida is back in the conversation. Let yourself be enveloped by a modern cinema classic’.
The Mail –‘ Nestled within its sins-of-the-elders narrative is a faintly charming cross-generational bonding picture, pairing a worldly cynic with a young girl taking her last gasp of secular air before giving her life to the Lord’
Empire Magazine –‘Pawlikowski has a photographer's eye for composition, and every crisp, monochrome frame could be a postcard from Poland's tragic, turbulent past’.
Times UK –‘There is not a frame in this austere spiritual journey that isn't a thing of heartfelt beauty’
Independent –‘The silence used in Pawel Pawlikowski's award-winning, thoughtful and intense new film Ida is deafening’.
Movie Habit –‘ Deep undercurrents run beneath the simple surface’.
Entertainment venue for dance, musical performances, variety shows etc.