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I can’t remember the last time I saw a Polish film in color. No complaints, though. Especially not with Ida, a film of such emotional intensity in its quiet seriousness that one is reminded of Kieslowski and Fellini all at once. The beauty of the cinematography is absolutely breathtaking, it emphasizes the bleak, desperate yet playful mood and atmosphere emerging around two women in Poland in the sixties. Anna is a young Catholic nun, raised in an orphanage and about to take her wows when she meets Wanda, her long lost aunt, former Communist activist, now a judge with the allures of an existentially tormented libertine. The two set out to uncover a dark family secret which will change both of their lives and make them reconsider who they are. There is something unique and exquisite in the way the “usual” Jewish family drama unfolds. There are no big words; no loud accusations from the victims and no remorse from the perpetrators. All is just so matter-of-fact that one hardly even notices when the sadness creeps up and starts taking over, presenting a quiet, calm argument to which no counter-argument is possible. But the best part is Anna’s face through all this and her gradual blossoming into a strong(er) woman, acting and deciding her own fate in full knowledge of who she is and what she is renouncing when renouncing the world. There is closure for Wanda too, one that comes as natural as her movements when putting on a Mozart vinyl and opening the windows…
Ida stars two amazing actresses, Agata Kulesza and Agata Trzebuchowska, and was directed by Pawel Pawlikowski, a literature and philosophy graduate who no doubt deserves more attention now that he has found his true artistic voice in his native language (his previous attempts in Enlish were by far not as memorable as this one).

…the walls wouldn’t have to do it for them. That could be the moral of Andrei Zvyagintsev’s second feature film, The Banishment (Izgnanie, 2009) in a nutshell.

Never since Werner Herzog shot films in Peru have the actual, real surroundings been characters in a film. Each scene is carefully composed and shot to perfection, without seeming composed or fake. The colors are breathtaking without being obvious or striking. In both rural and urban settings, this exquisitely photographed film effectively speaks, thinks and breaths in images. It threatens with long shots of empty hills, it meditates on death with the strange church and the cemetery on the hill, it suffocates with the large remains of a soviet factory, it mourns and goes mad by following a rain puddle, and so on. Also, apartment and house interiors are alive, even if sad and dim and grey. They express more than the people who walk around and live in them, people who on the surface seem related to each other but in reality are strangers mimicking furniture. A boy says he cut open a doll’s head to see what was inside. He found nothing. So his mother smilingly asks: “What did you expect to find?” The director has clearly seen too many Tarkovskij films (for example, when rain flows through junk, you cannot help but feel in Stalker’s Zone), so you’ll have to be patient with him in terms of plot. A family drama unfolds slowly, painfully, with too many things left unsaid. While it seems that the hills and houses and wooden bridges and trains talk, the characters cannot seem to communicate with each other, which inevitably will lead to tragedy. The director seems to have chosen to express their bonds or connections or estrangements by mechanical sound (that of a phone ringing or a train passing by) rather than by genuine dialogue.
This is the second film of director Andrei Zvyagintsev after the excellent The Return (Vozvrashchenie, 2003). I wonder how Norwegian beauty from Reconstruction, Maria Bonnevie ended up in this one. No complaints though, first class acting from all actors.