Movie Review: Ida

 Posted by on January 6, 2015 at 5:26 am  Film, Reviews & Discussions, Slideshow  No Responses »
Jan 062015
 

Ida, a Polish film with English subtitles, has quietly been gaining attention as one of the must-see movies of the year, and has recently made the shortlist for Foreign Language Oscar.

The film takes place in the early 1960s in Poland. We meet a young novitiate nun, Anna, an orphan, raised in the convent. The Mother Superior summons her. Anna is told that her only living relative, an aunt named Wanda, has contacted them. This aunt refused to adopt her back when Anna first arrived at the convent. Now Anna is told to reach out to her, to find out about her blood family before taking her vows. Anna doesn’t want to do this, but is told she must.

Arriving at her aunt’s apartment, Anna is first treated brusquely. She is given minimal, and shocking, information: Anna is told she is Jewish, and that her real name is Ida. Then she’s sent away. For her own reasons, Wanda returns to Anna, and tentatively reaches out to her, interested, it seems, in sharing some familial connection. The family tragedy that defines their relationship is something neither knows how to address, but together, they will begin to face it.

Ida is full of silences. Anna, accustomed to the silence of the convent, keeps her thoughts internal. Wanda, more communicative, is a bleak character. Her face is extraordinarily expressive (the actress reminds me a little of Kirsten Scott Thomas), sorrowful, and complex. She, too, chooses her words carefully. A judge, she is used to sitting silently and hearing a case rather than holding forth (as, for example, a lawyer does in a courtroom scene we witness).

Subtitles, for those of you who fear them, are less disruptive than in many films, since there is so little dialogue. As with any foreign film, there are some cultural assumptions that can feel like a barrier to fully understanding Ida. It took me a while to understand that it was the 1960s; in an American (or British) film, I can immediately see the era in the clothing, hairstyles, cars, etc. But my cultural cues are off when trying the same trick with Poland. Additionally, the viewer would benefit from a decent understanding of what happened in Poland during and after World War II.

That said, I didn’t have a lot of that knowledge, and still loved the film, and understood what I was seeing. It requires an ability not to get bogged down in details (Exactly why did XYZ happen? Exactly what historical event was Wanda referring to when she said XYZ?). Anna and Wanda end up very interested in details, but it is clear from the direction and the script that those facts are for our characters, not for the audience. Often we see our characters in close-up, but all the way to the side of the frame, even partially obscured. The facts they learn push them off-center, disrupt their lives, wound and awaken them. It is this off-center-ness that the film is about, not the facts that create it.

Both women have ordered lives. Wanda, describing herself as a “slut” at one point early in the film, seems to be Anna’s opposite: A nun and a Jew, a girl and an older woman, a virgin and a slut. Yet both have strictly-defined lives that shield them from a harsh world, and their meeting unbalances them each. The film then observes them as each is thrown more and more off-balance, taking away more shielding while giving each more and more to deal with. Each tries to help the other: Wanda thinks becoming a nun amounts to Anna wasting her life, while Anna at one point suggests a priest is needed (Wanda says “You mean a rabbi”).

Ida deals with the ultimate aloneness of human beings: Anna and Wanda cannot save each other, and we can only watch to see if they can save themselves. It deals with faith, and whether faith can sustain in the face of tragedy. It deals with the idea of what “the real world” is. Is Anna’s chosen life a waste? In the end, we find more tragedy, and also, perhaps, more hope, than we had expected.

Highly recommended.

FacebookGoogle+RedditShare
Dec 182014
 

bond_mastersonI have an article on The Film Experience that 007 fans might like.

With the announcement earlier this month that Monica Bellucci had been cast in the forthcoming Bond film, Spectre, the media has recently been replete with headlines like “James Bond finally falls for a woman his own age” It was the oft-repeated “finally” that put me in an analytic mood. Is this really the first time (“finally”) that Bond has been with a woman his own age? How often has there been a really large age disparity?

I decided to analyze each movie so I could derive some statistics.

Read the whole thing here.

FacebookGoogle+RedditShare
Hell on Wheels: Anson Mount

Hell on Wheels: Anson Mount

Nov 12, 2014

So, on re-watching the Hell on Wheels episode Bleeding Kansas, I was struck by how damn good Anson Mount is. I rarely mention it, perhaps because my recaps are more involved in what’s going on with the show and characters, and I don’t talk about acting much at all. But Mount is worth mentioning because […]

Full Story
Movie Review: Gone Girl

Movie Review: Gone Girl

Oct 15, 2014

Gone Girl, the movie based on the 2012 bestseller, tells a story you think you know. Amy Elliott Dunne goes missing on her fifth wedding anniversary, and her husband Nick doesn’t seem too upset about it. Maybe he’s exhausted. Killing your wife is strenuous work, right?

Full Story
SPOILER ALERT!

SPOILER ALERT!

Aug 19, 2014

It’s an understatement to say that “spoilers” are anathema for today’s film and television audiences. Until the advent of social media, the threat of inadvertently or deliberately revealing an important story element or plot twist was posed primarily through word-of-mouth (at water coolers which no longer exist) or by imprudent media critics. The term mainly […]

Full Story
Thus Spoke Mad Men

Thus Spoke Mad Men

Aug 5, 2014

A lot of recaps of Mad Men 7.04, The Monolith, noted that the episode contained multiple references to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. However, very few actually listed them all. Well, if you want something done right… Here is my list of 2001: A Space Odyssey (referred to henceforth as “2001”) allusions in Mad […]

Full Story

I Am Curious (Yellow)

May 19, 2014

A (NSFW) clip from the “scandalous” movie that Don and Megan saw.

Full Story

From Russia With Love: 50th Anniversary

Apr 9, 2014

For From Russia With Love’s 50th anniversary, I have a guest post up at The Film Experience. After 23 official films and 2 unofficial ones, From Russia With Love, the second James Bond adventure, remains the greatest of them all. Considered an iconic film in many ways, it may surprise the casual Bond viewer to […]

Full Story
Number One Fan

Number One Fan

Apr 8, 2014

In pop culture, “number one fan” is usually code for “celebrity stalker” (i.e. Annie Wilkes in MISERY or the scores of Sandy Bates fanatics in STARDUST MEMORIES). That plot device gets turned on its ear in “The Bachelorette Party,” an enjoyable comedic short directed by Mark Feinsod starring Charla Lauriston and Matt Kaplan. Former child […]

Full Story
Movie Review: Don Jon

Movie Review: Don Jon

Jan 7, 2014

Don Jon (2013) 10/10 Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) likes to work out, hang with his boys, pick up chicks, and watch porn. Things begin to change when he meets Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), who loves romantic comedies and hates porn. (Written and directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.) If I told you this movie was about objectification, you’d run […]

Full Story
A Coven of Film Witches

A Coven of Film Witches

Oct 28, 2013

This week, The Film Experience is doing a coven of film/TV witches, starting with my entry on The Wicked Queen.

Full Story
Movie Review: The Spectacular Now

Movie Review: The Spectacular Now

Sep 18, 2013

The Spectacular Now (2013) 10/10 Sutter (Miles Teller) and Aimee (Shailene Woodley) form an unlikely romance in the weeks before high school graduation. An award winner at Sundance, The Spectacular Now defies easy description, because it is so easy to describe in a way that says nothing about it. It seems to me that it […]

Full Story
Movie Review: 42

Movie Review: 42

Sep 4, 2013

42 (2013) 4/10 Recruited by Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey, Jackie Robinson becomes the first African-American to play baseball in the major leagues. It’s almost insane, the amount of potential this film had. Jackie Robinson’s story is compelling and heroic. Baseball has long been movie language for the American Dream, for inspiration, and for […]

Full Story