Monday, January 05, 2015

Review of 'Ida'

The other intelligent, sensitive, thoughtful film in which I dozed off - this time at a crucial moment. This film both looks and sounds as if it were made in the 1950s - even the screen size is deliberately retro, as is the sound production. It depicts a dreary, depressing Poland which has not come to terms with its wartime past. The main character is a young novitiate in a nunnery, who - just before she takes her vows - is introduced to an aunt that she hadn't previously known about. She soon learns that she is Jewish, her aunt a former Communist partisan who became a judge and has now fallen from favour. The aunt takes her on a trip to find out what became of her family, and they discover that the peasants who were hiding them from the Nazis had murdered them.

The film recalled my own trips to Poland - for work, not a concentration-camp pilgrimage - in which I nevertheless kept bumping into the ghosts of the Jewish past of Warsaw. The city had been one-third Jewish, and the "disappearance" of the Jews must have left an enormous hole in its social, cultural and culinary life; but my attempts to discuss this with a Polish colleague were really not welcome. It was also striking the way in which most Poles looked like each other, and how every so often I would see a face that was obviously Jewish.

The novitiate experiences life outside the nunnery, smokes, drinks, has sex with a jazz musician, and then consciously decides to replace her wimple and shows every sign of heading back to the nunnery as the film closes. Yet the cloistered life is not at all presented as ideal. A really complex, nuanced film - I'm really sorry about the bit I missed.

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