Monday, May 19, 2014

Ida [2013]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing listing* listing* (P.T. Felis) review* review* (E. Świeca) review* (L. Adamski) review*

CNS/USCCB (K. Jensen) review
HollywoodReporter (T. McCarthy) review
SlantMagazine (C. Cabin) review
Variety (P. DeBruge) review

Ida [2013] [IMDb] []* []* (directed and screenplay cowritten by Paweł Pawlikowski [en.wikip] [] [IMDb] []* []* along with Rebecca Lenkiewicz [IMDb] []*) is a Polish language / English subtitled film critically well received in both Poland and Outside (see links above) about a young late-teens/early-20s woman named Anna (played very well by Agata Trzebuchowska [IMDb] []* []*) who after growing-up in a Catholic orphanage/convent in Communist Era Poland (the film's set in Poland of the early 1960s) and had decided to become a nun in the Community of Sisters who had taken care of her, is told by her Mother Superior prior to accepting her vows, that she actually has a living relative, an aunt, who hasn't necessarily been easy to contact, but who the Sisters felt she should meet prior to making her vows. 

Very well, Anna is given her aunt's address and dispensation to leave the Convent to meet her.  When she does, she discovers that her aunt, Wanda (played magnificently by Agata Kulesza [IMDb] []* []*) is a rather hardened by life (for reasons soon become obvious / heart breaking) and consequently rather hard-drinking COMMUNIST JUDGE (she was known in the region as "Red Wanda" for having put all kinds of "Enemies of the People" behind bars and often to death).

So then, why was Wanda so "hardened" and consequently so hard-drinking/etc?  Well SHE (AND ANNA, whose birth name prior to being left at the Convent as a baby was IDA) WERE JEWISH.  Anna/Ida had never known this ...

The rest of the story un-spools from there.  There are, of course, a lot of questions that the audience (and Anna/Ida) would have:

Why did Wanda and Anna/Ida survive the Nazi occupation while the rest of their family did not?  Why did Wanda become a Communist while Anna/Ida ended-up at a Convent's doorstep and grew-up as a Catholic?   Why didn't the Sisters tell Anna/Ida earlier?  Why didn't Wanda pick-up her niece earlier?  And of course ... what now?  The rest of the film unspools from here...

This is a painful and at times ugly story.  In writing this review, I struggled with the question of how fairly Anna/Ida's character was drawn.  Was she just a device or caricature?  I do wish that SOMEDAY a film could portray the community life of nuns as well as the community life of male religious was portrayed in the French film Of Gods and Men (orig. Des Hommes et des Dieux) [2010].  (AND ACTUALLY FILM MAKERS -- I COULD DIRECT YOU TO PEOPLE / CATHOLIC RELIGIOUS SISTERS OF ALL KINDS, BOTH IN THE UNITED STATES AND ABROAD, WHO COULD HELP YOU TO DO THIS WELL / BETTER).  However, I came to the conclusion that I'd be asking for a different kind of movie here than the one that the film makers were trying to make.

I would note again to readers here the overwhelmingly positive critical reaction IN POLAND to this film and also would note that I'm not surprised.  This is a very well done film, ever somber, ever in black-white-and-grey, often in rain and snow, about a time and an aftermath of a time that was also cold, painful, and broke many, many, indeed, millions of people, both Pole and Jew.  And what is clear as day to me today -- Poles, at least in Poland, at least the young -- DO WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT and are able to do so with somberness and respect (unsurprisingly, for a nation with as sad/somber a history as Poland has had and consequently with composers like Chopin ... to express this well)  Honestly folks, a very good if sad/somber job!

* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser. 

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