June 23, 2014

in Movies

Film (2013)
Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski
Screenplay by Pawel Pawlikowski and Rebecca Lenkiewicz
Kendall Square Cinema, Cambridge, MA
With Agata Trzebuchowska(Anna/Ida), Agata Kulesza (Wanda)

Agata Trzebuchowska as Ida/Anna in 'Ida'

Agata Trzebuchowska as Ida/Anna
in “Ida”
Courtesy of Music box Films

A slow-moving, sometimes penetrating, account, set in Poland in the early 1960s, of a young nun-in-training who discovers she is Jewish.

It is some years after the Second World War in Poland and Anna is about to take her final vows as a nun at the convent where she has been living since she was a young child. She discovers, through her Mother Superior, before taking her vows, that she has an aunt who she did not know, that she was born Jewish, and that her name is really Ida.

Why the Mother Superior should present this information to Anna at the eleventh hour is not entirely clear. Nonetheless, the revelation about Anna’s birth and the subsequent connection with the accomplished but troubled Aunt Wanda, who still lives in Poland and has become a noted jurist, makes the story what it is.

There is something slow and deliberate about this film much in keeping with its monastic context, but it is somewhat less varied in tone than it might be especially when Anna discovers she is Jewish. The only connection with Jewishness she gets is through her aunt who, remarkably, and I must say unbelievably, has become an influential judge in postwar Poland, noted for its anti-Semitism. Neither Ida nor Wanda seems very Jewish at all and when they meet there is no particular sense of familial or cultural connection, even subtly or subliminally.

Agata Kulesza as Wanda, Agata Trzebuchowska as Ida/Anna in 'Ida'

Agata Kulesza as Wanda
Agata Trzebuchowska as Ida/Anna
in “Ida”
Courtesy of Music Box Films

Ida lets her hair down for awhile and, at Wanda’s suggestion, tastes a little bit of life. It is touching in a way, but the quietly perused study of Ida’s face only gives us a glimpse of what is going on inside. When the finale comes, we have little to go on and it is hard to understand why things happen as they do.

Though there is something quietly beautiful about Ida’s face which forms the basic visual material for the film, its constantly serene expression hovers on the edge of tediousness. Its penetrating quality offers an hypnotic charm, but, in the end, the constancy of it and the deliberate quietude of the film makes it more monotonous than it might have been.

This film, though appealing in its deliberate characterization of this pious young woman, does not really have its ear to the ground about Jewish culture and character which, if anything, offer a touch of wryness and humor even in the most difficult of circumstances. There is not a whit of that in this film, which is an indication of its distance from the subject-matter it wants to embrace.

– BADMan

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