Review: IDA, A Lovely, Artfully-Crafted Little Masterpiece

Lead Critic; Brooklyn, New York (@floatingartist)
Review: IDA, A Lovely, Artfully-Crafted Little Masterpiece
Sister Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) is an war orphan who is about to take a vow. The Mother Superior tells her that her only known relative, her aunt Wanda (Agata Kulesza), finally contacted her, and Anna is to leave the convent and stay with Wanda before committing herself to God.

Chain smoking and boozy, aunt Wanda is kind of a mess -- a guilt-ridden Jewess war survivor, she became a judge hell-bent on revenge. She tells Anna that her actual name is Ida Lebenstein, a daughter of a Jewish couple who perished in the war.

Together they take a trip to find out what happened to Ida's parents. They confront a Polish farmer who might or might not have killed Ida's family during the Nazi occupation of Poland. During the trip, Ida also attracts attention from a young jazz saxophone player who is playing at the hotel they are staying in.

Featuring picturesque, full-frame photography and great use of negative space, Ida is a breathtakingly gorgeous film (shot by Lukascz Zal). Every frame is a work of art. It doesn't hurt that luminous first-timer Trzebuchowska is in almost every frame. Also, there are no wasted moments -- clocking in at a mere 80 minutes, the film is a remarkably lean experience.

The family tragedy befallen under Nazi occupation isn't the main draw here. While Wanda seems to carry around the weight of the war past, Ida literally buries the hatchet. The film is, rather, a loving character study of a young woman who represents a clean break from the past. Clear-eyed, reserved Ida is at once naive enough not to realize her dimples have enormous effects on the opposite sex, and sufficiently wise beyond her years to know what she wants.

After a further, tragic event, Anna returns to the apartment for a period of contemplation. With beautiful black and white imagery accompanied by John Coltrane tunes, Pawlikowski's Poland in the 60s is as irresistible to us as is to our little Sister. This little vacillation, or the test that she sets herself in, provides one of the loveliest movie sequence in history, accentuated by Trzebuchowska's unassuming beauty.

Ida is one of those quiet, artfully crafted little masterpieces that goes unnoticed in the dead of the spring movie season. I haven't seen anything this year that is lovelier. Don't miss seeing this film in theaters.

Ida opens May 2 in select theaters in New York and Los Angeles, with a national roll out to follow. For more information please visit Music Box Films website.

Dustin Chang is a freelance writer. His musings and opinions on the world can be found at
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Pawel Pawlikowski

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