The film Ida by Polish director PaweƂ Pawlikowski won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film on Sunday night, the first Polish film to win the award

A historic – and unexpected – event for Poland, Ɓukasz DzięcioƂ of Opus Film, the company that produced the film, writes in delight in the liberal daily Gazeta Wyborcza (Poland):

“A major chapter in the history of Polish film has been written before our eyes. But could anyone really have expected this? All we knew was that right from the start, Ida was among the favourites. But that group also included five other fantastic flicks. And right up until the end, the [Russian] film Leviathan was the favourite – not the least because it was so successful at the Golden Globe Awards [2014]. But in the end PaweƂ’s extraordinary film impressed the Academy the most. All lovers of Polish cinema have reason to celebrate today.”

 

[divider]Film Ida[/divider]
ida-225x300Of all the movies Net­flix boasts, watch­ing a black and white movie by direc­tor Pawel Paw­likowski about a Pol­ish nun was not high up on my queue, but at the behest of my brother I decided to give it a chance

[highlight color=4485F5 ]By Brit­tany[/highlight]

T[dropcap size=small]T[/dropcap]he moment the first scene opened on a group of nuns clean­ing and re-affixing a statue of Jesus in a bleak snow cov­ered land­scape, I couldn’t look away.

Set in 1961 dur­ing Stal­in­ist rule, this film fea­tures an 18-year-old orphan named Anna (Agata Trze­bokowska) who is prepar­ing to take orders in the con­vent she lives in.

But before doing so, she is asked by Mother Supe­rior to visit her only sur­viv­ing rel­a­tive.

Anna duti­fully trav­els to the town of Lodz to meet with her aunt, Wanda Gruz (Agata Kulesza), who informs Anna that she is actu­ally Jew­ish, and named Ida Leben­stein (pro­nounced Eeda).

Together, Ida in her habit and Wanda chain-smoking cig­a­rettes, the two embark on a jour­ney to the vil­lage where her par­ents were killed dur­ing the war and where Wanda grew up.

Ten­sions between the women sur­face dur­ing the long jour­ney as Wanda con­stantly attacks Ida’s beliefs and Ida quickly learns the ways in which her faith runs coun­ter­in­tu­itive to the pres­sures of the out­side world: a world that is strug­gling to for­get the atroc­i­ties of its more recent Nazi occu­pa­tion and what it looks like to rebuild under the real­ity of Com­mu­nist rule.

This is not a movie to be watched lightly or with a smart phone in your hand. Its stark black and white shots and quiet impres­sion­ist moments beg you to sit up and take notice, to feel the ten­sion between faith and unbe­lief, and our human­ity in the face of war and acts of betrayal.

It begs the same ques­tion Wanda asks Ida early on in the film:

“What if you go there and dis­cover there is no God?”

But the movie steers clear of clichĂ©s or easy answers, and shows aspects of faith that are hard, messy and real­is­tic — but ulti­mately beautiful.