Response Journal: Ida (2014)

“The past is never dead; it’s not even past.”

The emotionally walloping Ida takes place in Poland in the 1960’s, and follows the eponymous orphan nun who, days before taking her solemn vows, leaves the convent to learn the truth about her parents’ demise during the war. Lasting eighty short minutes, the storytelling is economical and tersely wrought. Director Pawel Pawlikowski’s aesthetics are impressive and indelible: characters, cloaked in baleful chiaroscuro, are frequently marginalized within the frame, weighted to the bottom; the expressionistic backgrounds impose, towering above to intimate horrifying and inescapable historical contexts. Skeletons of the past are unearthed (literally) and then duly returned, though peace and absolution elude. Such graveness serves the film’s bleak psychoanalyses and vitriolic accusations (e.g. hypocrisy and cycles of political oppression, the crisis of culture without identity, and the culpability of Poles who betrayed neighbors and religious officials who witnessed atrocities and ignored them). It could’ve been a masterpiece in 1965, but Ida still haunts nonetheless.

Starring Agata Kulesza and Agata Trzebuchowska.  Cinematography by Ryszard Lenczewski and Lukasz Zal.

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One thought on “Response Journal: Ida (2014)”

  1. I took a very personal reading of the film: there is no place for a Jew in post-war Poland. All Anna/Ida has ever known is the convent. I liked how she is placed off the center of the screen in many/most of the shots outside the convent. When she returns to the convent, she’s again centered. It’s only there that she is comfortable. The Church is shown as a source of goodness (as opposed to the State). A priest saved the infant. The Mother Superior says that they tried to return her to her Aunt after the War, but Wanda refused to take her. The Mother Superior insists that Anna/Ida visit her aunt before she take her vows. Ida is sweet, kind and well-meaning. She is good to everyone she meets. Still her Jewness has been nurtured out of her. Her ignorance is so profound that she commits a massive (and ironic) wrong when she makes the sign of the cross over the new grave of her family. I gasped. Wanda had been able to keep going by hate, revenge and acohol. Losing her niece destroys her. When Ida takes her aunt’s advice to learn about sin before she renounces it, it is interesting that it is when the young man offers her a regular life that she goes back to the convent. A regular life is too fragile, frightening, mundane, unappealing? The film is beautifully shot, but maybe a little too slow.

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