After two striking British dramas (Last Resort and My Summer of Love) and a clever French mystery (The Woman in the Fifth), filmmaker Pawel Pawlikowski returns home to Poland to tell a simple story that bursts with deeper meaning. It's a minor masterpiece, shot in pristine black and white in striking locations, anchored by provocative themes and beautifully textured acting. As it explores themes of history and faith, the film grabs hold of the audience in often startlingly resonant ways.
It's set in the early 1960s, as the young novice Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) comes of age in the isolated countryside convent where she was raised since early childhood. Her mother superior (Halina Skoczynska) tells her that she needs to learn about her past before she can take the vows to become a nun, so Anna heads off to find her only living relative, Aunt Wanda (Agata Kulesza). The first thing Anna discovers is that her real name is Ida and her parents were actually Jewish. Since Wanda never knew how they died, shea agrees to travel with Anna to the family's village to try and get some answers. But the local father-and-son farmers (Jerzy Trela and Adam Szyszkowski) are oddly reluctant to tell them the whole story.
Yes, Pawlikowski is exploring his nation's complex history, a complicated swirl of personal responsibility entangled with politics and religion. Anna's own story relates back to the days when Nazis overran Poland, and the Jewish baby Ida became the Catholic Anna to protect her from the concentration camps. But learning all of this makes Anna question what she should believe: the faith of her parents or the one she was taught in the convent? Meanwhile, Wanda has her own difficult past to deal with. As a former judge who helped prosecute criminals from the Soviet occupation, she's just as troubled by what she has always believed to be the truth.
Continue reading: Ida Review
Anna is a striking young Polish woman who has lived in a convent as an orphan all her life and is now prepared to take her holy orders herself. However, before she signs herself away to a lifetime servitude of God, she is told by one of the nuns that she must first meet her only living relative Wanda Gruz. Wanda is her mother's sister and, on Anna's visit, is armed with several family revelations that could change the course of Anna's future. First, Anna's real name is Ida Lebenstein and second, she is actually Jewish. Wanda's history was one of much brutality, having sentenced priests to death as a Communist prosecutor during the war, and while she is faced with confronting her own past, she must help Ida uncover hers as she now must make a life-changing decision between her family roots and her upbringing.
Continue: Ida Trailer
Polish master Krzysztof Kieslowski found inspiration in the 10 Commandments, and for Polish TV he made a series of one-hour films exploring each one. Naturally, this is some heavy stuff. In some cases, it's really heavy stuff.
Continue reading: The Decalogue Review
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