Sunday, February 22, 2015

Ida (2014) **1/2

As the front-running Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Film, “Ida” is one we felt we should check out. This black-and-white Polish film about a nun with a connection to the Holocaust has it's qualities, but honestly it is the kind of film that makes people think they don't like foreign films.

Ida (Agata Trzebuchowska), is a Polish orphan who, after growing up in a Catholic orphanage, is preparing to take her vows as a nun. Before she does that, her Mother Superior insists she go visit her only living relative, an aunt named Wanda. From Wanda she learns that her family was Jewish, and that they died during the Nazi occupation. Curious to see their graves, Ida convinces Wanda to take her looking for their resting place and the cause of their deaths.

“Ida” turns out to be a road-trip movie, a murder mystery, and a coming-of-age story all rolled into one. It is so slow-paced and restrained, however, that I was hard-pressed to stay awake for the story. The film isn't just in Black-and-White, it's GRAY. The miserable-looking people and the flat-ass, Polish landscape all look completely colorless. To emphasize the boxed-in nature of their lives, the movie has a square aspect ratio instead of the usual wide screen, which does nothing to enhance the viewing experience. I mean, if I'm going to have to look at a featureless, Polish, winter countryside, I at least want to see lots of it. The film does feature some beautifully-framed shots. You could make a museum exhibit from stills of this movie. Some may find the under-acted performances to be impressively subtle and restrained. The story is also rather thought-provoking, exploring as it does the shock of Ida's discovering her unexpected identity and tragic family history. Not that Ida expresses any of that shock; we in the audience have to imagine it for ourselves. (Come to think of it, we should be due for a partial refund, given how much of this story we have to fill in for ourselves.) The film is inarguably artistic, but unfortunately, there is no escaping the fact that it is boring. Plus, do we really need another Oscar-nominated movie about the Holocaust?

2.5 stars out of 5

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