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Ida2013

  • 4.4
  • passes the bechdel test
From acclaimed director Pawel Pawlikowski comes IDA, a moving and intimate drama about a young novitiate nun in 1960s Poland who, on the verge of taking her vows, makes a shocking discovery about her past. Eighteen-year-old Anna (stunning newcomer Agata Trzebuchowska), a sheltered orphan raised in a convent, is preparing to become a nun when the Mother Superior insists she first visit her sole living relative. Naïve, innocent Anna soon finds herself in the presence of her aunt Wanda, a worldly and cynical Communist Party insider, who shocks her with the declaration that her real name is Ida and her Jewish parents were murdered during the Nazi occupation. This revelation triggers a heart-wrenching journey into the countryside, to the family house and into the secrets of the repressed past, evoking the haunting legacy of the Holocaust and the realities of postwar Communism.

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6 members like this review

Thank you Fandor for bringing this superb film to your members! First rate acting and cinematography make this a must see. The starkness of atmosphere and the black and white print leave a lasting impression.

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Member Reviews (52)

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top reviewer

Thank you Fandor for bringing this superb film to your members! First rate acting and cinematography make this a must see. The starkness of atmosphere and the black and white print leave a lasting impression.

6 members like this review
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top reviewer

Pawel Pawlikowski's Ida (2013) is undoubtedly the VERY BEST of the hundreds of films that I've viewed as a film fanatic. This film is just NUMERO UNO on my all time best films list.

Although the overt theme of the film is the aftermath of WWII and the Holocaust, the screenplay only uses this as a vehicle to examine another theme, namely, "self discovery". For both Ida and her aunt Wanda, this film is about a path of self discovery that they traveled together. For Ida , the path led to discovering the story of her origins and experiencing life outside of the convent, and then apparently returning to the convent to then take her vows as a nun. For Wanda, who built a great life for herself in post-WWII Poland by becoming a state prosecutor, and then advancing to become a judge, the path was one of revisiting the horrors of the past, and then not being able to cope with the past, and then finally committing suicide.

A remarkable aspect of this film is Ida's apparently "emotionless" and "flat" reaction to all the really remarkable things that she learned about her family history, and the radical experiences that she had outside the convent, such as exhuming and then re-burying her parents remains, and having a very brief romantic encounter with the young, handsome saxophone player. Although a superficial analysis of the character Ida's apparent lack of emotional display to the radically new things that she learned and experienced might be that this was just an example of poor acting and poor direction, a deeper analysis reveals this not to be the case. Ida's emotional demeanor is quite appropriate for a woman who has lived within the cloistered confines of a convent since her infancy. She has learned and is practicing what is known in Buddhism as "spiritual equanimity", that is, staying spiritually "centered" and at peace with oneself in the face of any events transpiring in the world around you. It is this "spiritual reserve" that carries Ida through the disruptive news and experiences outside of the convent.

The film poignantly contrasts Ida's spiritual equanimity with the character Wanda, Ida's aunt. Although Wanda has achieved great professional success in her life in the aftermath of the horrors of WWII , she apparently is lacking in spiritual equanimity altogether. This is evidenced in the film by her advanced alcoholism, and her sexually promiscuous lifestyle. Wanda has found "inner peace" in the face of her WWII experiences at the bottom of a bottle of vodka, and in having apparently random, transient sexual encounters. When Wanda is forced, by virtue of Ida's unexpected visit from the convent, to revisit the horrors of WWII, she can no longer find inner peace through alcohol and random sex, and this finally leads her to commit suicide.

Comparing and contrasting then the characters of Ida and Wanda in this film, we see the filmmaker definitely advocating to the viewer that equanimity, and peace of mind in one's life comes from spiritual strength from within one's self, and not in the external vices, and distractions that the world has to offer us. This is an especially timely and appropriate message in our modern times that are so dominated by a "trivial consumerism" that so easily makes available to us all sorts of "quick fixes" to calm the emotional and visceral distresses that we experience within ourselves., from the candy bar that is in front of us at the checkout stand in the supermarket, to the shiny new car at the car dealership, to the list of virtual "friends" that we have on our Facebook page.

Perhaps inadvertantly, this film also is very supportive of the Roman Catholic Church and its practices, in the face of modern criticism that the Church is too stepped in symbolism, in abstruse formal practices, and is experiencing moral decay from within (for instance, the pedophilia scandal of recent times). In the character of Ida, this film give a big "thumbs up" to the RC Church, as a religious institution where genuine and sincere spirituality is taught, practiced, and is ultimately achievable. I am not saying that this film convinced me to look at the RC CHurch in this new light, nor that this filmmaker even consciously wanted to make a such a positive promotion of the RC Church as one of the goals, or "messages" in this film. I am only saying that the apparent sincere, and genuine, and enduring spiritually of the character of the student nun Ida in this film, as exemplified by her calm demeanor, her spiritual equanimity, in the face of her "earth shaking" experiences outside the convent is at least an implicit confirmation of the spiritual validity of the RC Church and its teachings. The fact that Ida apparently returned to the Church at the end of the film, in spite of her experiences in the outside world, also implicitly carries the message that a person with proper spiritual training will choose spiritually over the material pleasures of the world in the end.

The storyline in this film is quite innovative, very well conceived, and quite well detailed in the screenplay. There are no unreal "coincidences" in the storyline, and the only "hole" that I could detect in the storyline is the unexplained appearance of the young, handsome saxophone player at Wanda's funeral, seemingly ready for an encounter with Ida. Nevertheless, for such an innovative and complex storyline, the screenplay is very "tight", and well thought out nonetheless.

The cinematography is a real strong point of this film. The use of black and white photography emphasizes the sober and somber atmosphere of the film. There is a fair amount of off center framing in this film, that is used for appropriate dramatic effect. The variable lighting, sometimes bright, sometimes shadowed, was also used for appropriate dramatic effect. The sometimes radical editing brings the viewer abruptly to a new scene with very different lighting, with a very different location, and with a .very different emotional tenor, again with appropriate dramatic effect. The contrast in scenes in the countryside, with scenes in the city, with scenes inside the convent were also done with appropriate dramatic effect.

For me, Ida (2013) is the greatest film of all times.

20 Stars !!! 20 Stars !!! 20 Stars !!!

3 members like this review
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top reviewer

This is one of our favorite movies, now. The cinematography is incredible. The story is atypical. And the acting is superb. Well worth your time.

3 members like this review
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staff

Amazing in every way. Out of all the great films I've seen this year, this is the one I'll never forget.

2 members like this review
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top reviewer

Oh boy, dare I write a not so positive review? Yes, the movie was shot in beautiful black and white, and the simplicity of the scenes was appropriate. But I felt the young nun was pretty much emotionless: even when watching her parents bones being exhumed, she showed little emotion -- or interest. Perhaps this was her contemplative training? But then all her reactions were muted. Why did she decide to go back to the convent: because she saw the emptiness of her aunt's life? But her aunt had a life force; the young nun didn't.

I also thought the World War II and the Jewish theme was a little trite; how many (dozens, hundreds) of movies have used this theme? Did I learn anything from this movie? Did farmers in Poland kill Jewish landowners in order to appropriate their land? Would I watch this movie again? (No). Did I think this was the best foreign film of 2014? (No).

2 members like this review
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Well said!

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Dear Eyemhear:

Thank you for your very thoughtful review.

I agree with you that Ida/Anna's emotional reaction to ALL of the mind blowing things she experienced was rather flat and emotionless. However, it was her "reserved" reaction to heavy things that she learned about her past, and all the heavy experiences that she went through in this story that had the greatest effect on me as a viewer. The impact on me as a viewer was greater than if she had displayed an "appropriate" amount of emotional reaction to all the new things that she learned and experienced because it really made my imagination explode thinking about what she was experiencing inside of herself.

You are right, however, in implying that her "lack of emotion" to all that happened to her outside the convent was a function of the cloistered existence that she had in the convent since her childhood. Growing up and then living in a convent is what made Ida/Anna's reserved demeanor appropriate in this film, and didn't just make it an instance of poor acting/direction.

I, too, have had my fill of WWII/Holocaust "sob story" films. It's like filmmakers have a fixation on this theme, and although I have great empathy for what happened to the Jewish people in WWII, I'm just sick of hearing about it already, especially in the cinema. However, I felt that this film, although still about the WWII/Holocaust theme, was a radical departure from all previous such films that I have viewed. This was not so much a WWII/Holocaust film for me as much as it was a "self awakening", or a "self awareness" film, that merely used the WWII/Holocaust theme as a vehicle to tell a story about two women, Ida/Anna and her aunt going on a journey of "self discovery".

Thanks again for your great review !!!

This was a searing and personal story of the hurt and pain from loss of family due to the Holocaust without even mentioning it outright. I think this is the best way to have people remember the pain of that time and feel it as though it was your family that was ripped away from you. But it is not only the story which makes this a jewel, it is the screen shots, so well taken and giving just enough to set the scene perfectly. I want to see more of Pawlikowski's movies.

2 members like this review

Using a classical storytelling formula where the main character finds herself at conflict that she is forced to confront, IDA is a masterful film that drew me closer throughout her journey. Simply verbalized and wonderfully photographed, its symbolism reveled itself gracefully to its stunning conclusion. I will recommend this film to anyone who might be interested in taking such a journey with IDA. It is well worth it.

2 members like this review
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A young initiate raised in an orphanage is instructed to connect with an aunt, her only living relative, before taking her vows. Her aunt informs her that she is actually Jewish, and that her parents were killed during WWII in a small village where they lived. She is committed to going there to find out what happened and to visit their graves, and her aunt agrees to go with her. Ida, quiet and very religious, does not get along well with her very worldly, hard-drinking aunt, who in turn resents Ida's decision to give up her life to the church. With it's beautiful black and white cinematography, 1.78:1 framing, and 1960's setting, this film is aesthetically reminiscent of an Eastern Bloc new wave film. It doesn't take the easy path of assuming Ida is simply wrong for devoting her life to the church or that her aunt is simply a drunken cynic. It goes surprising and interesting places.

1 member likes this review
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top reviewer

Gorgeous. I felt intimately involved, a voyeur fortunate enough to time travel and witness, tearfully, this tragedy.

1 member likes this review
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top reviewer

Excellent film about a young women's journey towards self realization. On the verge of taking her vows, she's exposed to the outside world, a cruel, cold, hardened existence, where sadness, pain and loss prevail. The film is beautifully shot in a stark black and white, beautifully atmospheric, while exploring the loss of innocence, and the comfort of ignorance.

1 member likes this review
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Artful in its simplicity and crushing in its effect, this is a great "crisis of faith" movie. Before taking her vows, a young Polish nun in the 1960s visits her aunt (and only living relative) in the city and learns unexpected things about her own heritage and about the outside world. Lead actress Agata Trzebuchowska has the kind of striking face that holds us even when expressionless in scene after scene. One smile or twitch of an eyebrow is a turning point in the story. She's quiet when the rest of the world gets loud. Director Paweł Pawlikowski tells us everything we need to know through beautiful screen composition while our nun shares very little with us directly. Her thoughts are none of our business. Those are between her and God. This isn't a religious film, but Pawlikowski respects our nun's ways because that's where the drama lies. And sometimes "God" is simply what's within us, that little internal candle-flicker of purpose that lights up hard decisions and that shows us where the wind blows.

1 member likes this review
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A carefully crafted poetry of image and music that lavishes the viewer with an intoxicating stillness and silence. A profound work of art.

1 member likes this review
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top reviewer

No time for a review now, but this movie is beautiful, maybe even too beautiful at times. The direction, the photography, composition, acting—all memorable. In scene after scene, I said: I know, I know. Thank this film for its splendidly radiant representation of a sad, and worse, reality.

1 member likes this review
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top reviewer

Award worthy. Beautifully shot and well acted. The story draws you in from the very beginning. Recommended!

1 member likes this review
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Ida is a beautiful little film that I had not heard of until it was added to Fandor.

I'm glad that I wasted no time in watching it. Right from the very opening of the film, until the very last scene I was completely immersed in the story and enthralled by the imagery. Sometimes simplicity is best, as is the case of Ida. The film (being shot in B&W) gives the story something that may have been overlooked or missed had it have been filmed in color. It is at times, very reminiscent of Ingmar Bergman's films from the 60's, yet not as dark and grim as Bergman's work. Very refreshing for modern cinema, a breath of fresh air. Showing that one can still accomplish and make a masterpiece with the very minimum.

Easily one of the best films I have watched in the last 5 years, and also, of all time.

P.S. thank you Fandor for adding such a gem of a film!

1 member likes this review
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wonderful film_Agata & Agata are both wonderful_beautiful cinematography really stark simple & pure_everyone is really great in it

1 member likes this review
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The empty space in the upper half of the frame is part of the story.

Enjoy.

1 member likes this review
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Amazing film, true work of art.

p.s. Well deserved the Oscar for best foreign

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insanely gorgeous

1 member likes this review

Perfect. Small wonder it won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

1 member likes this review

I'm a bit late to the "party" in discovering this film, which last week won the Oscar for "Best Foreign Film". I was able to find it on Fandor and decided to take a chance. When it first appeared on my TV screen (via my Roku player), I wondered if I had chosen the wrong film. It was in standard 4:3 screen aspect ratio (basically square, not wide screen) and it was in black and white! It looked like a well restored film from the 1950s. And the time frame is also the 1950s so that didn't help.

As the story unraveled I was quickly drawn in - though "quick" is not a word to describe this 80 minute film. I don't believe in "spoilers (if you've read my other Amazon reviews you know that) but I can reveal that the plot revolves around a young nun in Poland who is preparing to take her vows and then learns (from an aunt) that she is, in fact, Jewish (she was raised in an orphanage.). I can reveal that because it occurs in the first five minutes of the film. What keeps you interested is in seeing how the nun will deal with this conflict within herself.

There is really not a lot of dialogue in the film but, when there is dialogue, the subtitles are reall easy to read; the large white typeface on the black and white background makes this possible.

No, this is not the best film I've watched all year - and I'm not sure why it beat out the competition for the award, but winning the Oscar brought me to see the film and I'm glad I did.

1 member likes this review
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filmmaker

Fantastic film but maybe a little too oppressive for some.

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"Ida" starts with a novitiate nun going to meet the only family member that she has, a Communist insider aunt, Wanda. Together they go on a journey into both of their pasts, trying to find the answers to what happened to their family during WWII. This plot is a well worn path, and even though there are really no points in this film that are shocking or new, the structure of the film, the direction of Pawel Pawlikowski, the gorgeous black and white cinematography, and the silence and sorrow of the characters and scenes makes this work much better than it should. This film is drenched in sadness and cold, memory and regret, tragedy and heartbreak, but in the end, there is a tinge of joy in the ending.

Throughout "Ida" there is a subplot about Ida's faith, whether learning about her family and her aunt and the things that war did to them would question her belief in God and joining the rest of the nuns. This is what I as the viewer thought about during the long, unblinking pauses. Was she wondering if this was all God's will or if God did not exist because of the things that has happened in the world? When someone asks her, "What are you thinking about?" and she replies, "I'm thinking about nothing," we know then that she is lying, that everything that happens to Ida in this film is a test of her faith, and she spends a majority of her time on screen trying to process all of the new things she has learned. Watching someone process her life on film is hard to portray and even harder to capture so for this to turn out as well as it did makes "Ida" a masterful film.

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top reviewer

Cloistered in a Polish convent as an infant during Nazi occupation, Ida has no past. A week before her vows, she meets her aunt, Red Wanda, communist apparatchik, who has too much. Together they set out to find the graves of Ida’s parents in an exhausted Poland, still awakening from Nazi and Stalinist nightmares. The beautifully stark, almost naked, black and white photography is devoid of most artifice except for the crushing empty space that constantly hangs over everyone’s heads. The camera rarely moves, but scenes never seem static due to the unbalanced compositions and the potent performances of the two leads. This is a moving holocaust movie that expounds the haunting interview in Shoah of the occupants of houses of murdered Jews, but it is also a movie about Ida’s self-discovery and her first encounter with the outside world, full of monstrous faults, but also full of sensuous beauty such as Coltrane, carnal love and motherhood. The final minutes and Ida’s decision greatly affected me. Powerful film.

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top reviewer

a bit slow

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top reviewer

I liked this film, I liked the cinematography, I liked the characters and the story. If I have any dissatisfaction with the film, it was with wondering really what was going to happen with Ida. Would she really return to the convent? Her aunt really added some spice to the film. and and her exacting performance as the cynical, world weary sophisticate carried the film. I am not sure if the character Ida is believable or real. That is the only reason I don't give five stars.

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top reviewer

Bleak. Bleakness. Any location devastated by war and poverty is bleak, even when not filmed in black and white. Two lives, one bleak because of circumstances and emptiness, other than rules and order. Another, bleak with pain and misery and life itself. For one, there seem to be no smiles. For another, there are smiles but little joy. The director did well with the silences. He allowed me to listen and to think, without being rushed on to the next scene or event. And in the end, after the searching and the living of a small relationship, both found life, life as we know it - love, friendship, marriage, job children - somehow not enough. Perhaps many lives are not sublime - at least not forever, but it is what we do. Perhaps living is what we do, making something out of the non-bleak parts.

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I completely loved it. A realistic portrait of human condition facing ideologies, creed, individual isolation and depression. Candid and poetic at all times.

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top reviewer

Cinematography by Lukasz Zal.

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top reviewer

Very moving. Perfect in every way. Loved the black and white. Believeable ending. True to the story.

A true masterpiece. One of the best films ever. Framing, composition, movement, lighting all used perfectly to affect a story about many things really. A young woman, An old woman, a nation, culture, religion, war, debauchery, a suitcase (a character with an important role). And finding God... or not . Ida does, as she watches the rest fail. One by one the burdens placed upon her on her journey are discarded by her unshakable foundation. She sees the truth clearly and is ultimately not fooled by the many false idealistic notions. There's much more, just a remarkable film on so many levels.

Beautiful asymmetrical compositions

I quite enjoyed the first half of the film where Ida and her aunt search for the graves of her parents. In fact, if it had ended with Ida bidding her aunt farewell and returning to the convent, I would have been quite satisfied. As it was, I felt the ending of the film was not commensurate with the rest of the film and detracted to some degree from the overall experience.

Hauntingly dark, I would watch it again.

Great film, elegant shots and a very intriguing story line.

Exquisite. After watching I couldn't get it out of my head, so the following evening I watched again. I'll watch it again, and again, with anyone who hasn't seen it yet.

Outstanding film. Two extremely well crafted characters. Beautifully composed. Unpretentious but searing. Also expects a smart viewer. Leaving much unsaid.

Yes. GREAT MOVIE.

Paweł Pawlikowski’s Ida begins without fuss. The title appears on the screen and abruptly cuts to Anna, an 18-year-old orphan and novitiate painting a final detail on a statue of Jesus. This image is followed by long shot of a cluster nuns bearing the icon through the snow and raising it up in the courtyard. They pray and then eat in silence. Anna is called before her Mother Superior. A living relative has been found, an aunt, and before she takes her vows, suggests the Sister, Anna should visit. The girl has never been outside the convent and the city, as reflected in the windows of the bus, seems to be another planet to her. Soon after meeting her aunt, a dissipated former prosecutor, she’s abruptly informed “You’re a Jew. Your real name is Ida Lebenstein.” The chain-smoking, bitter woman is a poor match for Anna. She bluntly tells her: “We should be done here.”It is Poland in 1962 and memories of the Holocaust are fresh and Anna has crossed over a threshold from which there is no return. But she begins a journey away from her simple cloistered life, a quest that will reveal her past, test her faith, and compel her to face her split identity.

This is not a film driven by plot. Every image is clean and deliberate and the dialogue is minimal. There is no soundtrack to speak of and music is supplied by the ambiance: a record player, a radio, a jazz band. The pace is patient and meditative. A great film director knows the best scenes don’t resonate through dialogue, but are built through the generation of significant moments. They also understand that a picture is never neutral. A well-composed shot has inherent meaning. Filmed in lush black and white in a 4:3 ratio, which is nearly square, the images are so formally exquisite that dialogue becomes nearly superfluous. Every composition represents a specific idea or an emotional revelation. The experience is austere and mesmerizing. For the first time, Ida experiences pop music and sensual emotions, confronts the deep human frailty and guilt that is an integral part of the lives of flawed men and women.

Agata Trzebuchowska, who has never acted before (she was discovered in a cafe in Poland), is hypnotic as Anna. Her deep black eyes and impassive gaze observe the world with amazement and stoicism. There is a disarming tranquility to her presence: a combination of innocence and radiant beauty. She remains resolute in her search for the truth, not only about her parents, but also about how and why she alone survived. The mystery of her past is at the center of this film’s wordless mediation on fate and circumstance. Each individual life is shaped by the circumstances of its birth, the unpredictable product of a complex historical moment.

Pawlikowski and cinematographer Lukasz Zal (and earlier with Ryszard Lenczewski) shoot figures low in the frame. Landscapes, sky, and architecture dominate compositions, which not only emphasize Ida’s isolation, but also probes an elemental paradox: the transience of life and the permanence of place. As Ida experiences the outcome of random happenings and the petty ambitions of men, she recognizes for the first time her own physical beauty and unfamiliar stirrings of emotion. Light seems to struggle to enter the frame as she calmly observes the chaotic world outside the monastery. As a nun betrothed to Christ, her soul is dedicated to the service of the Church. In what ways does the will of God engage with transient existence?

The final moments of Pawlikowski’s minimal dialogue took my breath away. I won’t give any spoilers except to say the ending may take you aback, although you may sense that a shock is coming. The camera is only handheld in the very last shot and here the music is not sourced from within the film. Major questions have been posed and ideas communicated wordlessly. Both times I saw the film the audience sat rapt and silent — it took moment or two to return to the everyday world.

Intriguing!

This is simply a great film, one that will stay with with me a long time. The black and white cinematography is a wonder to behold.

Most powerful film this year and then some! Thanks Fandor!

Black and white. Dismal and sensual. Horrific and passionate, if quiet and grey.

A very moving story of life decisions and history that brings decisions, good story.

Entrancing film. Beautifully acted.

Arguably the best film of the year. Agata Trzebuchowska is a revelation. Ida is instant classic.

great film

Touching story, striking filming, the music and lack of music complemented ever so well.

amazing. every shot is perfectly composed. the lighting is spectacular. The main character is a study in youth, confusion, determination.

Filmed in stark, still-camera, Bergmanesque simplicity with a spare script: A young woman raised in a convent is forced by the Mother Superior to step outside her comfort zone and meet her aunt, who reveals her past. Together they go on a search that leads to decisive changes for both of them.

This film is stunning... at least, the first half. I've been waiting 15 minutes or more for the g****m wheel to stop spinning and for Fandor to show me the rest of it.

Brilliant. Heartbreaking. Cinematic.