Each year, the Academy Award nominations are announced, and each year, I prepare mentally, physically, emotionally… there’s a lot to be done. But before I can color code my ballot, set up a snack station, and share my “no talking whatsoever during acceptance speeches” rule with those watching with me, I need to see as many of the films as possible. Easier said than done, right? But lucky for all of us, one of the nominees, Ida, is on Netflix.
Pawel Pawlikowski’s film centers on Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska), an orphan raised in a convent who, before she can take her vows, is told to visit her one living relative, Wanda (Agata Kulesza). Aunt Wanda tells Anna that her name is actually Ida (and I’ll refer to her as such) and drops the bomb that her family is Jewish with the biting line, “So you’re a Jewish nun?” The film proves to be more than a narrative of Ida herself as the title would suggest, and for that I am grateful. Ida is stunning but says very little, while Aunt Wanda sits on the hood of her car to eat a doughnut, ’cause she can! She’s full of one liners (my personal favorite– Ida: “Will you come to my vows?” Aunt Wanda: “No. But I’ll drink to your health.”) and isn’t afraid to break some locks and take some names.
The film is up for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Cinematography, and for good reason. It’s a simple story, and one you’ve arguably heard in some fashion, but that doesn’t make it any less important or beautiful. Shot in the retro Academy ratio (which looks a lot like an hour and a half long Instragram video thanks to its square shape) and in black and white, each shot is breathtakingly intentional. Now brace yourself for a bold comment: I think Ida could be this generation’s La passion de Jeanne d’Arc, yes, the incredible 1928 silent film used around the world to illustrate cinematography. Each of these films has actors kept in the foreground (often cut off at the bottom of the screen), countless extreme close-ups, impeccable framing throughout, and yes, it makes my comparison seem a little dull when both are also shot in black and white and have religious tones– but my takeaway is that both show a lot while simultaneously saying and showing very little.
Ida‘s last twenty minutes feel even slower than the rest (hang in there), but again, the film is worth it if not just for the acting and look of it. Shout-out to the sound, for also being remarkable– only diegetic sounds were used, up until a song at the very end. It’s not an Oscar nominee that’s life changing, but it is one that’s pretty, and it’s another one you can cross of your list.