Pawel Pawlikowski's atmospheric, black and white Ida is a film out of time, like a 1950s Andrzej Wajda script directed by Jim Jarmusch in the 1980s. And that befits the title character, an orphan raised in a convent in early 1960s Poland who thinks her name is Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska). On the eve of taking her vows, the Mother Superior sends Anna to visit her weary Communist aunt Wanda (Agneta Kulesza), who reveals that Anna's real name is Ida, and that her parents were a Jewish couple killed during the Occupation. What follows is a road movie as Ida and Wanda try to find Ida's parents' graves, and Ida tries to make sense of the world outside the convent, a world which hasn't yet made sense of itself: a Poland of older people trying to come to terms with what they did to survive during Fascism, and just as uncertain about the new Communist regime, while the younger people find escape by playing John Coltrane in jazz clubs. But Ida is just as much about Trzebuchowska's big, onyx-colored eyes, which reveal everything and nothing, and the compositions which frequently place her at the bottom of the frame — all the better for the weight of the strange world to rest on her shoulders.
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