I had limited expectations when I started watching Pawel Pawlikowski “Ida”. Black & white photography is today more trend, less art way of filming. After “Artist” and “Nebraska” I was afraid that “Ida” is just one more film that wants to make itself special by using black & white technique. Fortunately, that was not the case at all. Ida, the main character of our story, is nun to be and before she takes her wows, she must meet her aunt and experience some of the regular life. Her aunt, we learn that at the beginning haven’t visited Ida in the monastery, and when she knocks at her door we’re expecting conflict. First of many surprises in the movie comes at that point…
– Please, come in – aunt says.
That’s the point in which the story of the movie begins. “Ida” is not the movie in which monochromatic is used because of trendiness. In “Ida” that technique has a point in the atmosphere and mood changes of the characters. Movie is set in the grim atmosphere of the Polish 1960s, and in that period all hopes of the communism are already proven to be illusions and all ideals of WW2 fighters about free and independent homeland are shattered by the Cold War. Behind the Iron Curtain, we get Pawlikowski point, all hope is gone for those that choose to ask too much.
In a sense, in “Ida” two worlds collide. Ida is a nun, and therefore an atavism in the communist society (that is also profound Catholic one), and her aunt is ex-communist official (judge) that once had high hopes for the system and after the war (in which she fought) all she did get from it was disappointment. As so many disappointed people she chooses to drown her sorrow in alcohol. When Ida knocks at her door, she is forced to confront herself with demons of the past and a family secret that is kept for decades. Around that secret Pawlikowski directs us into dark secrets of Polish people.
While watching “Ida” I remembered that most of negative critics which came to the German mini-series “Our mothers, our fathers/Generation War” came about its mentioning of the Polish anti-Semitism during the WW2. Ida confronts the same issue, but it tackles it harder and more ambitious that German mini-series. Polish author is allowed to do so. Questions of morale and guilt arise and Ida is in the middle of it all.
Movie is shot like a series of photographs, so at some moments we have a feeling of watching a photo album. We have coming-of-age story (regarding Ida) in one direction and war-drama (her aunt staring into the past) in the other. Light is dimmed in “Ida” and main optimist in the story is the main character. Character torn between life and religion, ideology and legacy must choose. Choice imposed on her is not easy, and in a sense it’s a choice imposed to the viewer too. We try to make our own choice for Ida, but in life sometimes, truly, we do not have any choice at all.
“Ida” is one of my favorites in 2014. Sometimes you don’t need two and a half hours to say everything that needs to be said. Sometimes, like in “Ida”, you can do it in 82.