The two women are holding each other. The younger is wearing a nun’s habit, while the older stares blankly and seems a little distraught. The framing of that shot also includes the ceramic wall behind them. Every shots in Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida are perfectly composed, always showing us the characters and their surroundings. Set in the early 1960s in Poland, Ida‘s main character is Anna, a young novice nun. Before taking her vows, she has to make contact with her only surviving relative. She meets her aunt Wanda, a chain-smoking, alcoholic, bitter woman. Wanda tells Anna that her name is actually Ida Lebenstein and that she is Jewish. They travel to find out what happened to Anna/Ida’s parents. The farmer who hid them during the war is reluctant to talk. The two of them are an odd pair. Anna, the nun and Wanda, the atheist who gets testy when Anna mentions God or pray. And Wanda smokes and drinks a lot, which does go well with Anna. But they become closer through the truths they uncover. Along the way they meet Lis, a young handsome saxophonist who was hitchhiking. Anna and Lis become friends. This film is about truths that have to be told, so that the younger generation will be aware of the their past. Ida is interesting on two counts: The acting from newcomer Agata Trzebuchowska and Agata Kulesza (winner of the Polish edition of Dancing with Stars). Kulesza is especially excellent, bringing some needed humor and cynicism. And that marvelous black-and-white Cinematography by Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski. There are lots of things to like in Ida, but I found the film too slow and the topic of little interest. However, esthetically Ida is as close to perfection as a film can get.
And the Oscar went to… Poland won its first Foreign language film Oscar in history for Ida. Accepting his award, director Pawel Pawlikowski ignored the musical cue signaling the end of his alloted time. The audience was having a ball, seeing that whatever the orchestra did, it had no effect. Pawlikowski kept speaking over the music. It was funny the first time, but when every winners did the same throughout the night, it got quite annoying. Next Oscar, install a trap. That’ll be funny!