Ida is a 2014 Polish film, directed by Pawel Pawlikowski. It’s set in 1960’s Poland and is about a nun trying to learn about her family during Nazi occupation with her last living relative. This is a very quiet, monochromatic, film with fantastic cinematography. It was a very good and powerful movie as well.
I became aware of this film when it was nominated for best foreign picture at the Academy Awards. Fortunately it was on Netflix here in America so I was able to see it. I love the big blockbusters like a Guardians of the Galaxy or The Hobbit, but I also enjoy films that aren’t in the mainstream and are very different from the ones that the general American public see. It’s hard though, because there isn’t a big demand for these movies here so it is hard to see them. That’s what I love about Netflix: I can easily see lots of foreign films that I couldn’t without it. I’ll probably talk more about this in a future post, but for now I’ll just say that I’m grateful I could see this because I enjoyed it quite a bit.
Like I said before, I do not see as much foreigns as I would like. I don’t hear about much of them, only the ones that get recognition from awards like the Oscars and Cannes. This being the first film I’ve seen of Pawlikowski, I’m not familiar with his style but after this, I am interested in seeing more of what he’s done. One director I noticed similarities to was Yasujirô Ozu, specifically Tokyo Story. Like Tokyo Story, the camera almost never moves, letting the actors do all the movement. Every shot is framed elegantly, there are no cuts or close ups, and the actors work well in silence an minimal dialogue. It focuses more on human nuances and feelings rather than artificial dialogue and contrived displays of emotion. This is really powerful when you’re not having clichés and the typical sentimental triggers thrown at you. None of it seems fake and you understand the characters even more.
What interested me was how, unlike Ozu, a lot of the static shots didn’t have the characters in the center. A lot of the times they are featured, they’re positioned near the bottom of the frame in the corners. Many times there is a single object in the foreground like a painting hanging on the wall. I don’t know if there is a specific reasoning for shooting like this but it does have a very potent effect. Maybe that is the reason. I noticed that structure before I did watching Ozu for the first time. I think it does highlight the beautiful cinematography in the film. I really loved the look and style of this film, and that is why the last scene not only confused me, but bothered me as well. It became shaky and followed her as she walked to what I assume was back to the convent. I don’t think the last scene called for it, however, I didn’t think it was a huge issue.
The two stars of this movie are the nun and her aunt, both named Agata in real life. Even though the actress portraying Ida is getting attention for her performance, I thought the aunt was a really interesting and well developed character that was just as important. The contrast between the two of them was interesting to watch and allowed for some interesting developments. We are introduced to the aunt in a negative light but I soon found her character just as powerful as Ida. She tries to have Ida break the rules of her convent before she goes back and we emphasize with each of their lives. The aunt used to be a judge in Poland but now is just a drinker and has promiscuous sex, and her story has a heartbreaking end.
There’s also more than the story of Ida and her aunt. A large historical impact is featured regarding the Nazi occupation of Poland. Through these characters we are much more able to sympathize with the tragedy that occured during that time. Another part of the film that was most saddening for me comes when they find the man who killed Ida’s family so he could save his own. He didn’t kill her because she couldn’t be identified as a Jew. Knowing this, and that things similar to this have surely happened, makes you think differently about the war and see it from a different aspect.
More than anything this film was a refreshing and welcomed change in the movies I’ve seen over the last year in terms of new releases. The dialogue never felt contrived just for plot continuation. There was a well balanced ratio between dialogue and silence that was incredibly effective and thought provoking. This isn’t a movie I would see everyone enjoying. I certainly wouldn’t show it to my friends who stick to seeing only the Hollywood blockbusters. This one of the best shot black and white films I’ve seen in years and I will not soon forget it’s simple, provocative story. Recommended for those who don’t mind subtitles or a slower paced movie.