The 57th BFI London Film Festival: Ida

Born in Poland, Pawel Pawlikoski (My Summer of Love, The Woman in the Fifth) has come back to his native country after years of voluntary emigration and has immediately presented us with an intimate black and white drama Ida, which takes place at the beginning of 1960s.

Anna, also known as Ida (Agata Trzebuchowska’s film debut) was raised in an orphanage run by nuns. Now, as a woman entering adulthood, she decides to become one. However, before taking the vows she is required to visit her only living relative, who is unknown to Ida, her aunt Wanda (excellent performance by Agata Kulesza). When the girl arrives to the aunt’s apartment, Wanda reveals, to the future nun, a family secret. Ida is Jewish and her parents were killed during the war. Both women decide to embark on a shared journey with the aim of getting to the protagonist parents’ burial place.Ida’s Jewish story only serves as a backdrop to illustrate the increasingly intimate relationship between the two women.

Ida is not only a story about those two characters but it is also a drama about a conflict of personalities. Wanda hides a dark past as a partisan prosecutor, often referred to as Bloody Wanda, she is a strong and gifted woman with unusual charisma- Kulesza performs the roughness perfectly. Ida, on the other hand, is the opposite, a religious, naive, pure young lady with a baby- faced innocence. However, both women slowly discover, in the course of a journey, a mutual fascination. For Anna and Wanda this meeting will be a crucial life experience. Although Trzebuchowska portrays the main character, it is Agata Kulesza’s one that creates an unforgettable performance.

ida 9

Even though the film is black and white, it isn’t hard to notice Dawid Ogrodnik’s ‘colorful’ performance as a saxophonist, who plays in a swing jazz band at a hotel where Anna and Wanda stay while searching for the truth about the girl’s parents. It is Dawid’s character who will later have an impact on Anna’s life. The questions arise: will Ida allow herself to be dragged into the musician’s world or will she stick to her ‘nun to be’ rules? How about Wanda? Will her niece change her way of living?

Ida is beautifully shoot against a harsh Polish winter in the old and rusty countryside surroundings as well as in unwelcoming aged city buildings. Big applause for the cinematographer Lukasz Zal, he did such an incredible job, for which he received Best Cinematography Award at the 38th Gdynia Film Festival. Apart from that the film also received the prestigious Golden Lion for Best Picture and picked up the festival’s best supporting actress nod for Agata Kulesza’s performance. Ida was also recognised at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival where it won the FIPRESCIThe International Federation of Film Critics, Special Presentation Award. The film had its European Premiere at the 57th BFI London Film Festival and picked 57th BFI LFF award in Official Competition for Best Film.

Written by Maggie Gogler

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