Ida tells the story of a soon to be nun, Anna, who is sent to see her aunt, Wanda, who she’s never met, right before she is supposed to take her vows. Anna is an orphan who has always been with the covenant, and she has next to no interest in visiting Wanda; even if she might have information about Anna’s family. What comes next is a road trip into the past as Wanda searches for closure and Anna discovers answers.
The secrets of the film are meant to be discovered along with Anna, so I won’t dig into that here, but even if the film was without a story it would still be worth watching just for the technical presentation alone. The cinematography in the film is simply incredible. And it is simple, it’s not overly flashy or full of complicated camera moves, Ida is just full of impeccable shots frame, after impeccable frame. The lighting, the compositions and the academy ratio are used to gorgeous effect with every setup, all while the black & white photography can go head to head with any other B&W film out there. Ryszard Lenczewski and Lukasz Zal should reap tons of praise come year’s end. I highly doubt we will see a more beautiful film this year.
At 80 minutes Ida moves like a breeze and the road trip vibe of the film allows for the script and the tone of the film to gracefully jump between the deadly serious to the surprisingly funny. Ida’s editor, Jaroslaw Kaminski, never wastes a beat in the film as he lingers when he should and knows how to get the most impact out of every moment of the film.
The two stars of the film are also remarkable with Agata Kulesza giving possibly the best performance of the year as Anna’s aunt, Wanda. She is often hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking and almost always unpredictable as she shambles through her life and struggles to find meaning in this post war Poland. Her bond with Anna is rough at first, but both women slowly warm up to each other before forming a touching bond while some of Wanda’s worst traits attempt to rub off on Anna. If all the other superlatives I’ve shared didn’t get you to the theater, Agata Kulesza should. Agata Trzebuchowska stars as Anna, and while Kulesza gets the flashier part, Trzebuchowska is nearly as riveting as she silently brews as she uncovers her path. She says so much through her eyes and she never wastes the moments Pawel Pawlikowski gives her to let her hair down a little.
Speaking of Pawlikowski, he deserves endless praise for assembling this team to execute his fantastic vision for Ida and he is a director that I need to dig into his filmography ASAP. Just incredible work from top to bottom, but his choice in music might be the biggest standout of the picture. The jazz that fills the film feel as fresh and mind blowing as they do to Anna’s virgin ears, as we swoon with her as the music pours over us. The music is an unlikely addition to this diverse mixture of a film, but I can’t imagine the film is as powerful without it. Pawlikowski is so good here, even the subtitles are implemented fantastically.
Ida is one of the year’s best and could very well end up being the best film I see all year. Agata Kulesza gives a performance to remember while Agata Trzebuchowska makes an incredible debut for herself. A technical marvel and nearly impeccable drama, Ida is a film that you should see at almost any cost.
Ida is an A+