“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.