Foreign Film Friday: IDA

IDA is a 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. 18-year old Anna, 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.


The film was criticized by some for its perspective on Christian-Jewish relations in Poland. Some have argued that the Christian Poles in the film are portrayed negatively as being anti-Semitic and sharing responsibility for the Holocaust with the German occupiers.

Conversely, others have argued that Ida’s aunt Wanda Gruz, a Jewish woman, was portrayed negatively in the film as someone who collaborated with the Soviets and persecuted the Polish underground opposition.

What do you think?

A serious, coming-of-age movie, IDA explores the world of a youthful nun in post World War II Poland once the dust finally settles and life ventures onward. The events of the war are hardly a forgotten bloody past, but are rather sharp, jagged rubble along the road to fixing the unfixable mistakes ushered in by the Nazi extremists. Filmed in black and white cinematography, IDA’s visuals match perfectly to her story.

Despite the wars ending, the pressure of the communist Soviet Union loom all around as do the seemingly endless trials of war criminals. Ida, played by Agata Trzebuchowska, is one such individual raised to the aftermath of Polands terrible fate. Raised Catholic and near days from taking the oath of a nun, it is her reserved life style that keeps her from the chaos of the everyday. However, as she soon learns the truth about herself, she becomes more aware of the fact that no matter how far one steps from the violence and chaos of the world, there is no dissociating from it. Wanda, played by the beautiful Agata Kulesza and the exact opposite of Ida, encourages this realization with her wild, miserable demeanor crafted from the misfortune witnessed through her own eyes.

IDA is preformed in Polish alone but offers subtitles for those who need to brush up on their Polish. On the other hand, if learning is truly your style, the slow demenor of this movie allows one to easily focus on the language itself. Although quiet, one can learn a lot from the youthful Ida.

Surprisingly, IDA is the first Polish film to win a foreign language film Oscar! Due to the combined efforts of director Pawel Pawlikowski, the PFI (who co-financed the film), and everyone else involved, history can truly be witness in watching this film. Although it was remarked that IDA should have also won for “Best Cinematography” this was still a very much needed win for the strength and originality of the Polish cinema.

Rating: ★★★ (3/5 stars)

Quick Facts—
Directed by: Pawel Pawlikowski
Released: 11 September, 2013
Country: Poland (1962)
Language: Poland
Filming Locations: 
Lódz, Lódzkie, Poland
Zgierz, Lódzkie, Poland
(Piaski town)
Full Cast:
Agata Kulesza – Wanda
Agata Trzebuchowska – Anna / Ida
Dawi Ogrodnik – Lis
2015 Academy Awards – Best Foreign Language Film of the Year (First Polish Film To Do So)
2015 BAFTA Film Award – Best Film Not in the English Language
Jack Achenbach

Jack Achenbach

I am an SLE Storyteller and a culinary nutrition student at Johnson & Wales University who believes that there is no limit to the size of one’s imagination nor the paths one travels. I am a writer, a sucker for a great story. I am chef with a culinary passion. I am an adventurer because I explore what yet I have not seen. I am a dreamer because I dream the impossible dream.

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