“Ida”: Poland’s Beautiful Best Foreign Film Nominee, Now Available on Netflix

February 11, 2015 § 2 Comments

Agata Kulesza and Agata Trzebuchowska in "Ida"

Agata Kulesza and Agata Trzebuchowska in “Ida”

My mother often asks how she and my father can see the Academy Award nominees for Best Foreign Film, Best Documentary and Best Short Feature. My answer is always disappointing: it’s difficult, even for those living in New York and Los Angeles, to see them. For those who live elsewhere, it’s nearly impossible. But this year at least one nominee for Best Foreign Film is easy to watch: Pawel Pawilkowski’s “Ida,” on Netflix.

Set in 1962, “Ida” is the story of a convent-raised orphan who, on the eve of taking her final vows to become a nun, is instructed by her Mother Superior to meet her only living relative, the aunt who refused to claim her. The young novitiate, Anna, does, and immediately learns that her real name is Ida Lebenstein, and that her Jewish parents were murdered by their Catholic neighbors during World War II.

Her aunt Wanda, a resistance fighter during the war, became a prosecutor afterwards, punishing war criminals. But when she meets her niece, she is no longer working and deeply embittered, a lonely, promiscuous woman with a drinking problem. After initially rejecting Ida–clad as always in her nun’s habit–Wanda takes her to the family village to learn the truth about her parents’ deaths.

Shot in black-and-white, “Ida” is visually stunning, full of painterly, beautifully composed shots. The fact that actress who plays Ida, Agata Trzebuchowska, looks like a Vermeer subject only adds to the effect. The journey undertaken by the two women is fascinating, as it concerns not only the past but the present and future. Will Ida take her vows after finding her Jewish roots and tasting secular life? Will Wanda (the excellent Agata Kulesza) still be part of her life?

I loved this film and said so on Twitter. Moments later I got this response from a stranger: “Hogwash and lies-nothing more” along with this link
http://www.pch24.pl/an-oscar-for-murderers,33543,i.html#ixzz3PeNHaSQN to a virulent review of “Ida” in a Polish Catholic newspaper. “I didn’t think it was a documentary,” I responded. Neither should anyone, but as “Ida” proves, some wounds don’t heal.

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§ 2 Responses to “Ida”: Poland’s Beautiful Best Foreign Film Nominee, Now Available on Netflix

  • M.F. Sibley says:

    The stranger who sent the response to you with the Polish Catholic film review is afraid to deal with the truth – people did exist who did not treat Jewish neighbors with the care necessary to prevent discovery by the Nazis. It smacks of Germans, who after World War II ended, claimed they knew nothing of the concentration camps that were in their own back yards and what happened in them or German soldiers who, after torturing Jews said, “we were only following orders”.

    I could not believe that a Catholic publication fielded this negative review, but sadly, no one or no religion is immune from practicing various forms of discrimination against others. As you so aptly put it, some wounds just don’t heal.

    Thank you for your righteous review.

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