Agata Trzebuchowska, the actress making her debut as the title character of “Ida,” has dark eyes that burn like coal when shot in black and white. Playing a novitiate nun in 1960s Poland, she doesn’t speak much at all, the camera is always gazing into her eyes and as we watch and keep watching, there’s a lot going on behind them.
However, her character is going to be tested in this quiet but wrenching little tale from director Pawel Pawlikowski, best known for 2000’s “The Last Resort.” She receives a letter from an aunt and travels out into the great big world to find her. When she does, they are quite opposite: Wanda (Agata Kulesza) smokes, boozes it up, and sleeps around. But we also learn that she used to be a detective for the state, hunting down “anti-socialists” and she has called Anna from the convent to tell her a few shocking things: her name is actually Ida, and she was actually born a Jew. And the reason she’s brought her out is to join her in hunting down the Nazi sympathizers who murdered Ida’s parents back in World War II.