The Polish-born, British-educated writer-director Pawel Pawlikowski is both hugely talented and hugely ambitious, and the combination tends to trip him up. “My Summer of Love” (2004) was a romance about two girls (one of them a young Emily Blunt) that was punch-drunk on its own cinematic rapture; his latest film, “Ida,” is a thing of beauty that overstays its welcome. It’s possible that Pawlikowski would be a great artist if he weren’t so hellbent on convincing us of it.
Nevertheless, the first three-quarters of “Ida” are as astonishing as anything you’ll see at the movies this year. Rigorous and allusive, this is a small story that touches on vast historical events and on metaphysical themes of grace, memory, and redemption. The title character, Ida (Agata Trzebuchowska), is a young Polish novitiate preparing to take her vows; the period is a decade and a half after World War II, during the suffocating era of Communist rule. The opalescent black-and-white cinematography (by Ryszard Lenczewski and Lukasz Zal) seems to obscure as much as it reveals. Pawlikowski is consciously working in the territory of such postwar masters as Ingmar Bergman and Robert Bresson, and the movie has its ears out for the silence of God.