Director: Pawel Pawlikowski
In 1960s Communist Poland, Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) who, on the occasion of taking her vows, is requested by the church to visit her long-lost aunt Wanda (Agata Kulesza). Previously unaware of her aunt’s existence, Anna is doubly shocked by the jarring, alienating world outside of the coventry. It’s as busy and terrifying as the cynical Wanda is cold and sceptical.
Yet the two quickly warm up to each other after Wanda delivers some ironic news: Anna, the pretty little nun about to devote her life to Jesus Christ, is also Jewish. Her father and mother (Wanda’s sister) were tragically killed during the war by farmers who hid them from Nazis. Together, they try to track down the bodies of their dead family relatives in order to find closure.
Pawlikowski explores Anna’s discovery of adult life with Wanda, the surrogate mother figure she never had: Lipstick, heels, stockings, boys, alcohol, cigarettes, and the one thing that ties them all together—sexuality. Anna’s naturally resistant to vice, but she’s also curious.
Ida works best in the moments where the cold cynicism in Wanda’s deadened heart is melted by Ida’s youth and optimism, in scenes that capture Wanda’s contagious, sardonic sense of humour and her influence on her naive niece.
It’s a promising set-up for the film’s first half, but it ultimately doesn’t build beyond this promising set-up. A slew of tragic events suddenly occur in the second half, but without proper narrative development, Anna’s final decision at the end of the film to take her vows feels arbitrary and anticlimactic—it’s a shame and a waste, seeing that the film builds incrementally towards this one, life-changing moment. (Tina Hassannia)
Sunday, September 15th, Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, 9:00am