This beautifully photographed film begins with Ida about to take her vows to become a nun. The Mother Superior tells her that before she does so, Ida should visit her long-lost aunt. Ida is an orphan and the aunt is her only relative. The nuns appealed to the aunt many times over the years to come and take Ida away from the orphanage. She never replied. Ida has no interest in the venture, but does as she is told.
Her aunt Wanda is just about the polar opposite to Ida. She drinks, smokes, and picks up men at bars. We learn that ten years back she was quite a prominent judge. Wanda tells her niece about the mother and father she never knew. Ida’s mother was Wanda’s beloved sister. Having been brought up Catholic, Ida now finds out that she is Jewish. Wanda and Ida go on a search to find out the circumstances of the parents' deaths during the war, and where they are buried.
The time is the early 1960s, and the place is Poland. The film is shot in black and white, and we see the desolation, the crumbling buildings, the isolated farms. There are many silences in the movie. The viewer actually sees the characters thinking. It is such a relief from all the talk, talk, talk that surrounds us. I thought Ida was very moving, and visually stunning; a truly wonderful film.
Ida is a very personal film. We see these women, each bereft in their own ways, dealing with lingering hatred of the Jews. There isn’t a lot of kindness shown to them, and when it does appear, it is from the younger generation, for whom the war is ancient history. There is some wonderful music in the movie - pop, jazz, and classical.
There is a great interview with the director, Pawel Pawlikowski here. It is available on DVD from Netflix next month.
I first heard of Ida in a review in the New Yorker, which you may read here. The piece is brilliant, with much information about Poland. The official film site is here. And there is a beautiful review here.