I can’t say enough about how great this movie is. Great story, beautifully filmed, and extremely well acted throughout. Anna has grown up in a convent and become a novice in due course, but is told by her Mother Superior that before taking final vows she must make a visit to her only known relative. Aunt Wanda had declined to take her in as an orphaned child, and isn’t especially excited about having the aspiring nun visit now. As for Anna, What good can there be outside the convent? She complies because she must. When Anna finally arrives one morning, Wanda is blithely smoking a cigarette and drinking coffee as a man prepares to leave the apartment. When she asks her niece, “Didn’t they tell you who I am? What I do?” one can’t help but fear the worst. But it isn’t the worst at all: Wanda is a judge, it turns out, as well as a former prosecutor for the newly formed communist state, although despite this apparent success seems hell bent on drinking and sleeping around as a way out of careerist misery. Aunt Wanda is also a Jew, which of course means that Anna is too, and the aspiring nun learns that she was named Ida by parents who were first hidden and then murdered during the war. Details are murky, but Wanda, spurred on by her niece’s visit, is ready to confront the past. Ida, now more than vaguely unwilling, has no choice but to follow.

That really doesn’t give too much away. The unlikely pair set off on a trip, and there they learn that historical discoveries can’t be made without accompanying interior revelations. Perhaps for Ida it is the reverse that must be learned.

I don’t think there’s a frame in the entire movie that isn’t exquisitely realized. It is the boxiest aspect ratio I have perhaps ever seen in a feature film, all of it 1:1.37, just about every shot static with only a few remarkable views that aren’t straight on. This goes a long ways towards taking viewers back fifty years or more, although I doubt there are textures and surfaces in films of that era so stunningly captured as they are here. Blacks, whites and grays are kept in beautiful balance. The finest contrasts are between the somewhat medieval interior of the convent and the drab hotels and civic spaces of postwar Poland, as well as the more cosmopolitan settings and the elements of earth, sky and forest. The faces of the two women also tell quite a story, Wanda, beautiful despite her obvious inner torment, and Ida quietly self-contained by devotion, maybe reluctance and even fear as well. See it in the theater if you can, add it to the queue if you can’t.


  1. Is it the sort of movie to show your teenage girls curious about a vocation to religious life?

    Also, I couldn’t help but note the PG-13 warranted, in part, by scenes of (gasp!) smoking!!!!!!


    • Ha!

      JOB, thanks for setting me straight, I thought the PG-13 was due to (gasp!) habits!!!!!

    • I”m thinking no, JOB. My partner took this one – usually, he gets the Jewish/Holocaust movies and I get the Catholic movies, but this is a hybrid, and since I took The Jewish Cardinal (good stuff), he took this – but when Scott Marks says that a film goes over the top, I think you can be assured of some extremities.

  2. Watching the trailer I kept thinking about Jason Staham’s Redemption/Hummingbird. I know, I’m bad.

  3. Quin Finnegan says

    Thanks, Paul S. I’ve put Statham’s Redemption at the top of the queue, right above the Jewish Cardinal.

    JOB, I’d have to say, no, don’t show it to the kid. But smoking and swilling vodka straight from the bottle has seldom looked so good as it does here.

  4. Jonathan Webb says

    Looks great. Thanks. By the way, has anyone seen the movie “Her”? If so, what did you think?

    • What a waste… Generalities about how humans relate to each other and computers. It all looked nice and was well shot I guess but content-wise, nothing new to me at least.
      Had trouble caring for the lead and I prefer Gerty from Moon for interesting robot companions on film.

      • 🙂

      • I saw “Moon” – and was hoping for more than I got.


        • The set design, modelwork, reminded of Alien & original Star Wars.
          Back when I’d seen it I’d been reading Karen Traviss’ intelligent Star Wars tie-in novels on the immoral use of a clone army by the Republic, so the humanism of Moon resonated with additional force.
          I think I can say it’s one of my favorite films of the past 10 years.

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