Poland 1962, Anna is a young Catholic orphan about to enter her vows to become a Nun with the convert who has looked after her since she was a small child. However, before she takes her vows Anna’s Mother Superior forces Anna to meet her Aunt, Wanda, Anna’s only surviving relative. In a first strained meeting Anna is shocked to learn that she was not born a Catholic, but was born Jewish and her real name Ida Lebenstein. Ida/Anna and her Aunt return to Ida’s parents village to discover what happened to them during the Second World War.
This film has not really got much of an international acclaim to it, mostly because the film is Polish. I think it’s a pity that some great films filmed in non-English get so little attention in Hollywood on the international spotlight because they are not in English.
It’s shot completely in black and white in gives it a now very uncommon and old-fashioned screen ratio of 4:3. This set up in a way helps to make the film feel more like a fly on the wall documentary about a real Ida actually in search of her family’s history during the Holocaust. It is also interesting that the Holocaust is never once mentioned throughout this film but is built into the whole fabric of the film. Everyone where is empty, everyone is living a life half lived, everyone is coming through the motions but the whole atmosphere is thick, heavy and dense with loss.
My only gripe with this film is the subtitles. The film tends to shoot scenes lower down, with a lot of shoulder and head shots and a lot of scenery space filling the top half of the screen – a real 1960s vibe – however as I do not speak Polish, I need the subtitles. Sadly these subtitle are kept at the bottom, when really they should have been moved to the top to allow the actors to be more visible. I wish this attention to detail had been continued to the same degree as the director’s rigour for the rest of the film.
It truely is a work of art and very much deserved it’s Oscar and Bafta awards. It’s just a shame it doesn’t get as much attention and acclaim as it rightly should.