Film Review: Ida 

Ida: a film about rebirth and one of the summer’s must-sees.

The best thing about Ida is that it is set in the real world. That may seem like a strange reason to get excited about a movie, but at this point in film history, when it's nearly impossible to distinguish a real animal (or a real person) from the expert handiwork of a team of computer-aided technicians, a shot of an actual cobblestone street in an actual village trumps an Autobot riding a metal dinosaur every time. And I like the Transformers movies.

Director Pawel Pawlikowski, cinematographers Ryszard Lenczweski and Lukasz Zal, production designers Marcel Slawinski and Katarzyna Sobanska-Strzalkowska, and everyone else who contributes to Ida's look and feel are so mindful of and sensitive to the place where their story is set that, instead of writing about things like plot and characterization, it seems more useful and helpful to list all the incidental stuff of life caught onscreen that tends to knock the story and its formidable female leads off-course.

click to enlarge Ida
  • Ida

Chickens, peeling paint, snowflakes, dirt roads, morning mist, leafless trees, powerlines, mud, thatched rooftops, staircases, party lights, water, curtains, vinyl records, bottles of vodka, and mounds of dirt are as important as either chapter of this two-part historical drama. The first and longest part concerns a young nun-to-be named Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska), who meets up with her aunt Wanda (Agata Kulesza) shortly before she takes her vows. First, Wanda disorients her niece by saying, "So you're a Jewish nun." Second, she tells Anna that her name is actually Ida. Third, Wanda takes Anna/Ida along on a mission to recover the rest of their family history.

Like The Grand Budapest Hotel, Ida is shot in the more box-like 1.37:1 aspect ratio commonly used in movies released prior to the arrival of Cinemascope in 1954. But through careful staging and lighting, Pawlikowski's shots feel both wider and deeper than conventional, rectangular widescreen imagery. Many shots are designed with subtle textural contrasts and heightened by the tableau-like immobility of a stationary camera recording one or two slowly moving figures. (Ida herself often seems to peek out from the bottom of the frame like a holy tortoise.) One fabulously naturalistic framing follows another, and most of the time the impulse to mock such solemn, planned-out suppleness recedes as soon as it surfaces.

Like fellow indie filmmaker Kelly Reichardt, Pawlikowski is equally interested in the sounds of the world. The film's close attention to the noises of human activity — whether eating, praying, or exhuming human remains — often impart suspense and a kind of secular grace to the business onscreen.

The big/small, soft/loud, light/dark fluctuations in sound and image gradually start to dramatize the tension between Ida's spiritual aspirations and her physical existence. In the film's second movement, Ida decides to explore the world she's about to give up for life in the convent — an exploration that begins when she hears a young saxophonist's rendition of John Coltrane's "Naima" in a hotel bar.

This gorgeous, quietly sexy and autumnal movie about rebirth is one of the summer's must-see films.

Ida

Now Playing

Studio on the Square

Ida
Rated PG-13 · 80 min. · 2014
Official Site: www.musicboxfilms.com/ida-movies-98.php
Director: Pawel Pawlikowski
Writer: Rebecca Lenczewski and Pawel Pawlikowski
Producer: Eric Abraham, Piotr Dzieciol and Ewa Puszczynska
Cast: Agata Kulesza, Agata Trzebuchowska, Dawid Ogrodnik, Jerzy Trela, Adam Szyszkowski, Halina Skoczynska and Joanna Kulig

Trailer


Now Playing

Sorry there are no upcoming showtimes for Ida

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
    • Free Fire

      Slapstick shoot-em-up rises to the level of art film
    • Ghost In The Shell

      The groundbreaking anime gets lost in the live action translation
    • Beauty and the Beast

      Emma Watson romances a man-buffalo in Disney’s sumptuous live action remake

Blogs

Politics Beat Blog

Low Early Voting Totals for District 95

News Blog

State Officials Search for North Memphis Bear

News Blog

4/20 at Overton Park, Not Very Lit

Beyond the Arc

Game 3: Grizzlies 105, Spurs 94: Grindhouse Forever

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

T2 Trainspotting

News Blog

Update: Nary a Silo Will Tarnish Famous Vista

Hungry Memphis

How to Gumbo

News Blog

Downtown Pocket Park to Open

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Addison Engelking

Readers also liked…

  • On Location: Memphis 2015

    This year’s festival brings filmmakers and audiences together.
    • Sep 4, 2015
  • Maggie’s Plan

    Comedy perfection from director Rebecca Miller
    • Jun 17, 2016
  • Mistress America

    Greta Gerwig is a whirlwind of energy in director Noah Bombach’s latest New York tale.
    • Sep 7, 2015
ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2017

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation