Acclaimed director Pawel Pawlikowski (Last Resort, My Summer of Love) returns to his homeland for this moving and intimate drama about a young novitiate nun in 1960s Poland who, on the verge of taking her vows, discovers a dark family secret dating from the terrible years of the Nazi occupation.
In this spare, stark, and oh-so-beautifully directed film, Pawel Pawlikowski returns to his native Poland for the first time in his career to confront some of the more contentious issues in the history of his birthplace. Few subjects are as controversial and as emotional as what passed between Polish Catholics and Jews during the Second World War. Pawlikowski, who created his reputation in England with films like Last Resort and My Summer of Love, has made what is surely one of the most powerful and affecting films of the year.
Shooting in black and white, and using the 1.37:1 Academy frame — the almost-square frame of classic cinema — Pawlikowski sets his film in sixties Poland. A novitiate nun, about to take her vows in the Catholic Church, is told by her Mother Superior that she will be accepted into the church after she has visited her aunt. The young and prim Anna soon finds herself in the presence of the middle-aged Wanda, her mother's sister, a raven-haired sensualist. It is here that her past — and her real name, Ida — is revealed to her for the first time. This triggers a remarkable journey into the countryside, to the family house, and to secrets that Pawlikowski ruthlessly exposes.
This film is impeccably executed and
judged, achingly written, finely structured
and eloquently shot. Scene after scene is
a masterly evocation of a time, a dilemma,
and a defining historical moment; yet Ida
is also personal, intimate, and human.
The weight of history is everywhere, but
the scale falls within the scope of a young
woman learning about the secrets of her
own past. This intersection of the personal
with momentous historic events is gauged
to perfection in a film that will have everyone
reaching for superlatives.