As I was watching Ida, I couldn’t help but want to pause every scene, take a screen shots, and plaster them on my wall. This Polish film directed by Pawel Pawlikowski explores identity, guilt and politics centered on a young woman and orphan who briefly leaves the convent she was raised in. Not only is it a highly meditative film, it’s a visually appealing one that utilizes black and white to the best of its ability.
Before taking her vows that will marry her to the church, Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) temporarily leaves her convent in order to meet her only living relative, her aunt, Wanda (Agata Kulesza). Wanda reveals that Anna’s name is in fact Ida and she is Jewish. Her parents were murdered during the war and both embark together to find their graves and tie loose strings.
Ida, an observer and learner of the past and her dark family secrets, steps into a new to life being able to see and experience things that are not so common in the convent. Her aunt is the storyteller and victim of the dark secrets they are venturing out after and isn’t afraid to sardonically poke at Ida’s chastity and commitment to God.
Wanda, my personal favorite, is the historical and emotional carrier of the story. She’s a likeable and an interesting character. Sardonic, broken, and uninspired, she’s definitely a no-fucks-given type woman (excuse the language). An alcoholic and former state prosecutor, she’s survivor of the war and claims to have sent enemies to their deaths. As the past unravels, she sinks deep into remorse and stuns us. The contrast between her and Ida is entertaining and heartfelt to watch. As they travel on the road, topics on religion and politics are questioned and challenged.
At first, I wasn’t really fond of Ida’s muted emotions. But I came to appreciate it in the end, because it only made her more mysterious and alluring to watch. Ida and Wanda represent a generational gap. On one side are the ones who have, and still do, struggled as prisoners of war and loss. The other side lays those who were fortunate to avoid that and delve into a world of freedom and choice, as illustrated by the film’s final scene.
Pawlikowski creates a beautiful film with minimal camera movement and startling black and white shots. He explains how powerful our identity is and how it can bring us to new and unwanted places.
Ida is available on Netflix.