Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida is bleak and distant, capturing the tale of a convent raised woman’s journey to her roots along with her aunt, who carries the traits of a modern woman, unfulfilled despite playing such a prestigious role in Poland’s reconstruction, eliminating the foes left behind from the German occupation of the Second World War, but defined with sinful acts that counteract with Ida’s.
The plot of Ida demands little from its audience from an emotional standpoint, we rarely find ourselves gripped and immersed of its central subjects, but is compensated with a more intellectual perspective that constantly challenges its viewers to look further than its superficialities, finding the essence of its human figures and connect how they amplify of the larger ideas and conditions that surround them; but the two central figures still contain an arc of their own, how the presence of the other have affected their lives, especially from an existential or spiritual standpoint, even if the film only exposes of them in very small doses. Ida is not a film that allows its treasures to be given generously, Pawlikowski forces me to actively search for his intentions, and with that I was satisfied, it was an effort that rewards its viewers and perhaps even more after the film’s eventual end, contemplating on the journey that Ida and Wanda take, the developments and the outcomes of their story.
Pawlikowski creates this sense of initial distance from his audience through the unconventional positioning of his camera, framing its primary subjects often slight off from the centre and frequently utilised a static execution, with characters interacting with the limited space however they please, the camera almost as if unaware of its human characters but instead of the backdrop or the objects that surround them. The film is also edited in such a way that narrates its story with a concise but often disorientating flow, which at first was discomforting and challenging, but eventually through active listening and close observation, Pawlikowski allows the preceding scenes to expose the needed elements to ensure logic in its movement to the upcoming scene.
I could probably go further and explain or discuss the characters themselves and the performances that charged them, but I feel such an effort could not be done in this single viewing, I hope to return to this film someday and be captivated by its overall intentions; but for now, Ida is an auteur crafted piece of cinema that pushes the capabilities of its audience with a story that leaves its viewers thematically rewarded, one that is concisely constructed and photographically rich in texture. A highlight in contemporary world cinema.