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Poland in the early 1960s. The young nun Ida discovers that she is Jewish. Together with her aunt, a convinced socialist and atheist, they embark on a journey to find the graves of her parents. A laconic and tender road movie.


The first thing that one notices about this film is the images: black and white with subtle grey nuances, nearly square and each one painstakingly composed as if it were a photograph. The woman portrayed with such intensity is Ida, a young Polish nun. It is the early 1960s and she is about to take her final vows. Her decision seems clear. Composed and confident she prepares herself for the ceremony. When the Reverend Mother asks her to contact her aunt Wanda, her only living relative, before she makes her irrevocable decision, she only does so out of a sense of duty. Her aunt Wanda turns out to be a fun-loving woman in her 40s. She greets her niece at the door in a negligee after just having sent home her lover. Their first meeting is cold and formal but soon the convinced socialist lawyer and the soon-to-be nun are on their way to their family’s hometown to find the graves of Ida’s parents. It is a trip to a bleak past. Ida discovers that she’s Jewish and her name was changed from Ida to Anna. Farmers hid her parents but they were later murdered.

The Polish-born British director Pawel Pawlikowski (MY SUMMER OF LOVE) has staged IDA as a melancholic road trip with two very different yet similarly strong personalities. A decade before, as a convinced socialist and relentless state attorney, Wanda prosecuted and sentenced to death war criminals and political opponents. She likes to party and drink, is glib, laconic, a convinced atheist, and provokes Ida with her escapades. Yet Ida remains unflappable and holds dear her faith and rituals. Yet during the course of their road trip affection develops between the two women, maybe because neither feels she has a place where she truly belongs. There is an apparent gap between these two figures and the Polish Catholic population that neither Wanda’s political affiliations or Ida’s Catholicism can bridge.

IDA captures this existential unhappiness in breathtaking images and small laconic scenes. In the British blog filmcomment Pawlikowski describes how he shot the story: “The general thing is to take things away. What I was doing was constantly taking away and leaving only a limited number of objects in the shot, which would carry more force. So the image isn’t an imitation of reality, but it’s a reality in its own right. The work we did there was finding the right elements and stripping away all the make-believe realism, the extras. Not to try to imitate reality, trying to get away from the pseudo-realism—a shaky camera, a lot of camera moves and extras. (...) When you finish watching this film, you remember it as some dream landscape rather than some replica of reality. (Interview with Violet Luca on 21.1.2014)

Hendrike Bake

Translation: Carla MacDougall


Dänemark/Polen 2013, 80 min
Genre: Drama
Director: Pawel Pawlikowski
Author: Pawel Pawlikowski
DOP: Lukasz Za
Montage: Jaroslaw Kaminsk
Distributor: Arsenal Filmverleih
Cast: Agata Kulesza, Agata Trzebuchowska, Dawid Ogrodnik, Joanna Kulig
Release: 10.04.2014




  • OV Original version
  • OmU Original with German subtitles
  • OmeU Original with English subtitles

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