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It’s rare nowadays to find a period drama that touches on the Holocaust and isn’t based on a true story. Before taking her vows, a novice teenage nun (Agata Trzebuchowska) sets out from the rural Polish orphanage she grew up in for a road trip with her surly, alcoholic “aunt” Wanda (Agata Kulesza) to untangle her own hidden Jewish heritage. It’s a bit of an uphill climb, one fraught with forced stylization in the form of calculatedly excessive headroom. But once director Pawel Pawlikowski (My Summer of Love) sets things careening over the top, the ride down is filled with unexpected mordant delights. Mozart and Bach provide background noise, but film aesthetes will take their musical cues from a brief swatch of Victor Young’s theme to King Vidor’s tawdry swamp melodrama Ruby Gentry. Don’t adjust your set: the film is (strikingly) photographed in Bergman-esque shades of gray-and-white and in the Academy ratio of 1.37:1. (2013) — Scott Marks

Rated PG-13 | 1 hour, 20 minutes
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