The black and white, letterbox framed film from Poland will very likely be the 2015 Academy Award winner in the best foreign language film category. Ida has nabbed numerous critical and festival prizes leading up to the Oscars. The film, which focuses on a young Jewish nun in search of her parents graves, has a story that is resonating with a large span of Jewish Hollywood voters. While competition is usually stiff in the category, Ida also received a nomination in the best cinematography category (a little ironic since the cinematographer quit the film before it was finished), giving it the edge over the competitors.
Raised in a convent, Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) is instructed to visit her only living relative, an aunt named Wanda Gruz (Agata Kulesza). “Do you know who I am?” Wanda asks Anna on their first meeting. She proceeds to tell Anna that her birth name is Ida, that she is Jewish, and her parents were murdered and buried in an unknown location. The very unlikely travel companions set out to find their graves; Wanda is a former state prosecutor who allows herself fun and pleasure whenever the opportunity presents itself. Anna clings to her vows but is curious to understand where she came from and how she survived.
In my not so humble opinion, Ida is such a short film (87 minutes) with such sparse dialogue that I can’t help but think it might have been a stronger short film (clearly I am wrong since it’s winning feature film awards). Compared to the other foreign language films, Ida seems the most closed off, the least cinematic and the most simple. Sure, the story will resonate, as all stories do about WWII, but I don’t think Ida breaks any new ground. Of the 200+ films I saw in 2014, Ida also doesn’t stand out for cinematography either.
Ida has an Auntie Mame feel to it, except without any dialogue when Wanda is off screen, and without the color and vibrance. We watch as this young girl, played by a non actress, struggles with the temptation of womanhood, loss, faith and the acceptance of the choices in her life that have mostly been made for her. Ida wouldn’t have worked as anything beyond a 90 minute film, as the script lacks a lot of emotion, dramatic turns and movement beyond the ironic moments in the car.
Final Thought – Ida is a bleak, quiet and unengaging post WWII drama.
By: Dustin Chase