The film Ida by Polish director Paweł 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, Łukasz Dzięcioł 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 . But in the end Paweł’s extraordinary film impressed the Academy the most. All lovers of Polish cinema have reason to celebrate today.”
Of 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]
TThe 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 clichés or easy answers, and shows aspects of faith that are hard, messy and realistic — but ultimately beautiful.