REVIEW: Ida

9 09 2014

IdaRiverRun International Film Festival

Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Ida” is most certainly going to be one of the most gorgeously shot films of the year when all is said and done in 2014.  Each black-and-white frame is composed with a striking incredible attention to detail that they feel worthy of commemorating in a textbook.

His choice of imagery, though, is rather one-note.  Pawlikowski loves placing the characters in the bottom third of the frame, their heads dwarfed and engulfed by their surroundings.  It’s often as if the characters are shot in proportion to their importance.  At some points in “Ida,” this fixation gets to the point where the subtitles have to be placed at the top of the screen instead of their customary resting place at the bottom.

Once we get the hang of the film’s visual language, it feels like we’ve taken cinema’s equivalent of an Ambien.  “Ida” is but 80 minutes, but I wondered if I would be 80 years old by the time it concluded.  (For those who don’t know, I’m 21.  Hopefully that metaphor makes a little more sense now.)  The cinematography is stunning, but it eventually is not enough to carry the snail-paced story of the film.

The characters lack the development to sustain the film as well.  The titular character, Ida, begins the film as a Polish nun in the 1960s who goes by Anna.  She was removed from her Jewish roots at an age too young to remember them but receives a rude awakening when her biological aunt Wanda reveals this hidden past.

Ida is too painfully stoic – think more stone-faced than Ryan Gosling in “Only God Forgives” – and Wanda is not nearly colorful enough to make the journey worth investing in.  Pawlikowski doesn’t initially make the purpose of their voyage evident, leading to frustration right out of the gate.  Everything’s in its right place in “Ida,” except maybe some storytelling fundamentals.  B- 2stars


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