Director Pawel Pawlikowski sought a cinema sui generis in making “Ida,” a devastating masterpiece set in Poland 1962, when the British-trained director was a little boy. This dreamlike road movie follows a convent-raised orphan girl named Anna who is told that her birth name is Ida Lebenstein, and that her parents were Jewish and murdered in the war. The courier of this shocking news is Ida’s caustic, free-spirited aunt Wanda who resents her niece’s innocence but takes the girl under her wing anyway to uncover the dark reality of her family’s past in the Polish pastoral.
“Ida” swept the festival circuit throughout 2013 and 2014, ultimately nabbing about $4 million at the US box office, outmatching its take in France where the film was deemed a hit. “Ida” has now been nominated for five European Film Awards: Best Film, Best Director and Best Screenwriter, as well as two Best Actress nominations for Agata Kulesza and Agata Trzebuchowska. Their performances are astonishing, exquisitely modulated and subtly powerful. DP Ryszard Lenczewski has already won the cinematography prize for his gorgeous B&W lensing.
Will the film end up in the final five for the Foreign Language category? Right now it is the film most seen among the contenders, many of which have yet to nab US distribution and will probably stay in festivals. “Mommy” as well as fellow European Film nominees “Force Majeure,” “Leviathan” and “Winter Sleep” are also high on the list.
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Back in September, Pawlikowski penned an extensive, two-part, behind-the-scenes essay on “Ida” for Eat Drink Films, which you can read here.
Stream “Ida” on Amazon Prime.