Sunday, 12 October 2014

Film Review: Ida

Zero and I went to see Ida a couple of weeks ago; I have not found the time to post a review, and this is not going to be the review that I would really like to post. I might update it when I find the time.

The film distributors site devoted to Ida is here. You can download the press notes here, and it is of interest to scroll down and read the interviews with the director and lead actress as they shed an interesting light on the making of the film and the real life characters who lie behind the screenplay's characters.

Stephen Wang has posted a review that captures something of the beauty of the film: Ida: beauty in black and white. I, too, was reminded somewhat of Tarkovsky, but perhaps more deeply than Fr Stephen. The more one understands the details of Polish history of both the wartime and Communist eras the more one can enter into the real depth of this film. It is a Polish film about the Poland of its times - and much as Tarkovsky portrays something of the Russian soul in his film making, so does Ida portray something of the (divided) soul of Poland in the 1960's. The figure of Wanda, a prosecutor for the Communist authorities, is a challenging figure to Poland today - and her nicely appointed flat would only have been accessible to Communist Party apparatchniks (to use the language of those times). The portrayal of her flat is an icon of a whole era in recent Polish history - but it is an icon that will only be read by those who know something of that history. When I discussed this aspect of Ida with my Polish neighbours, they spoke of there only being fruit available at Christmas time, and of family members taking it in shifts to queue for days to buy white goods. Similarly, the dark secret of the farming family - and, indeed, it was a secret that Wanda knew of and had hidden to protect her own career - is challenging to Poland today, though my knowledge of Polish history struggles to understand how widespread the events portrayed really were.

The film, for me, also represented in part a dialogue between a Poland that has a profoundly religious (Roman Catholic) culture, represented by the figure of Anna/Ida herself, and a Poland that almost literally, because of Communist propaganda, had no knowledge of that culture whatsoever. Wanda's total indifference to Ida's religious practice - "...your Jesus..." manifested the latter part of this dialogue. The dialogue comes to its zenith in the sequence during which Ida for 24 hours indulges the lifestyle previously lived by Wanda, drinking, smoking and sleeping with the jazz musician. As Fr Stephen points out, it is the words "..and what then...", repeated several times by Ida in response to the description of the life that she might have with her musician as she lies beside him in bed, that form the heart of the films ending. It is the contrast between the implications of these words and Wanda's suicide that represent the ending towards which the film moves.

And as Fr Stephen points out, the black and white cinematography, and the play of light and shadow that is so distinctive in character from that which would occur in colour, are stunning.

Other reviews: at Thinking Faith - which largely, in my view, misses the depth and point of the film, despite appearing a quite sophisticated review. At the SIGNIS website, which notes the award of the Ecumenical prize at the 2013 Warsaw film festival.

Ida was first shown in London in 2013, at the London Film Festival, where it was awarded the prize for best film.

Like Fr Stephen, I think it is a must see.

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