When colour replaced black and white as the universal celluloid medium it began a slow demise of a certain artistry of cinematography. There’s something about the use of light and shadow in old films which holds a spell over me. The last few decades have produced some beautiful modern black and white films: The White Ribbon, Ed Wood, Pi, Schindler’s List, Memento, Tabu and La Haine to name but a few. Pawel Pawlikowski’s new film Ida is up there with the best of them.
Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) is a young novice nun whose been raised an orphan. A week before she’s due to take her vows Anna is told by the Mother Superior (Halina Skoczynska) that she has an Aunt Wanda (Agata Kulesza). Wanda tells her that she’s actually a Jewish girl called Ida, and although her aunt is distant at first, the pair set off on a trip to find the graves of Anna’s parents.
Ida is part road movie, part coming of age film, as well as being a subtle treatise about the Holocaust. The two main protagonists both put in award-worthy performances and It has some of the most beautiful cinematography I’ve seen all year; the balcony scene is sheer brilliance. At times it harks back to Bergman, isolated and poignant. Pawlikowski tackles the Holocaust with great tact and cleverness, as he does the relationship between the pair. Ida is a beautiful work of art; intelligent, profound and thought-provoking.
Ida is out in cinemas now.