Country: Poland, Denmark
Director: Pawel Pawlikowski
Music: Kristian Eidnes Andersen
With its technical specs like 1.33:1 aspect ratio and posh Black & White cinematography, Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski’s fifth feature film IDA, gains an instant art house recognition albeit its pithy 82-minute running time.
Back to his homeland, Pawlikowski scrupulously traces back to the era of 1960s, contemplates the aftermath of WWII through a road trip of Ida (Trzebuchowska), a Jewish orphan who is scheduled to take her vows to become a nun, and her aunt Wanda (Kulesza) whom she has never met before and who is a damaged good herself and has been persisted in withholding the custody of Ida out of human nature.
Treading in the bonding process with the methodology of reticent verbal communication and aesthetically unconventional compositions, a plain journey to locate the graves of Ida’s parents delves into a more soul-searching purgation for both women, especially for Wanda, whose tragic backstories are brutally but implicitly unveiled, which ultimately overtakes her bearing capacity. Wanda is a more complicated character, she is the opposite of Ida, a middle-aged single woman who flirts casually and indulges herself with smoke and alcohol, she is a magistrate, once called “Red Hair Wanda” because she ruthlessly adjudged death penalty to a few war criminals, Kulesza is superb in bringing out both the wrath and tenderness within the character, “I can see through your lies”, Wanda utters to the man who has committed horrible wrongdoings in the extreme times, she is devastated inside, but at the same time, she is fearless as well, her abrupt egress stands for one of the most shocking scenes in recent art cinema, its impact comes headstrong and poignant.
Most of the time, Ida is the sidekick of Wanda, an unobtrusive observer during their journey, but the horrific truth she gleans about her family gradually undermines her belief, after Wanda’s accident, her short-term spree with secular pleasure unforcedly
embodies the thin fine line between enlightened detachment and blind spirituality. Trzebuchowska is calculatedly composed in her acting debut, with the semblance of a meek girl under the guidance of Pawlikowski’s less-is-more philosophy.
Pawlikowski is not seeking forgiveness or retribution with regards to the man-made horrors executed in WWII, the most applauding merit of IDA is its immense patience to let its characters to mull over their emotional spectra and decide their own destinies, nothing seems rushed or premeditated, yet in 82 minutes, IDA successfully mounts a much more dreadful picture of the loss of humanity in viewers’ minds than its own austere but visually pleasing aesthetics, hope it will stand the test of time but as far as I am concerned, its sui generis modus operandi should be more treasured than the film per se.