Film Review: Ida

People have been raving for a while now about Ida, about how this movie is “perfect” and “eerily beautiful” and how this was a film that you needed to see. This was a film that would make you realise just how good cinema could be.

However, for me, I kept finding myself slightly detached and disinterested in it. In my head I could hear all these critics proclaiming to the masses how your life would be poorer if you didn’t watch Ida, and yet, as soon as I put the trailer on, I’d get about 20 seconds into it and then either I’d switch off or it would. But, with it available on the Curzon Home Cinema on demand service, and it not being the longest film in the world, clocking a modernly pathetic 80 minutes I decided to give it a go. Whatever my preconceived ideas may be, when the wave of agreement over a film is this united, it normally suggests it’s going to be ok.

The first thing to point out is that this is a Polish language film that has been shot in old school, 4:3 ratio, black and white and so, is certainly not going to appeal to the masses and when you then set the sub plot, the world around which this story rotates, as the consequences of having Jewish faith at the time of the Second World War and it’s fair to say that this film on paper, narrows its already small audience further.

Agata Trzebuchowska & Agata Kulesza - Iida

My biggest problem with Ida, however, is how it’s been shot. The story underneath it all is actually quite intriguing and at times gripping, but the photography used to bring the movie to life has left it removed and confused. The monochrome palette at times seems to be totally washed out, the world becomes almost too black and white. And while part of me thinks that this may have been a ploy by the director to create simplicity in tone of the film, to project the way a closeted nun would see the world, I found it did nothing more than turn the world too bleak and break my bond with the characters.

When this is combined with the 4:3 ratio, which I felt had been used to attempt to artificially age the piece, rather than confer this message and remove the world back to post war Poland, I found it did little more than shrink the screen. It doesn’t destroy Ida, it’s not poorer for being in four-three, but you feel it never adds anything. In fact, I felt that the clarity of the images, the sharpness of a modern lens meant that attempting to pull the movie back into the era of four-three felt totally wrong.

It’s at the is point, that I totally contradict myself though and say, that even though the ratio felt artificial in its role, the almost ever changing depth of field used does add a huge amount to Ida and in fact, it’s this when combined with a very period and haunting soundtrack that I think gives the film it’s power and strength and beauty. There are times that through narrowing the field you end up with a series of shots that appear perfectly old and dated. Almost withdrawn. It’s hard to explain properly, but parts of this film feel just like they are being viewed through a window, framing purely the aspects of the narrative needed.

Agata Trzebuchowska & Agata Kulesza - Ida

They say that communication is only 7% verbal and Ida proves this, at times conveying everything and more, with an action or a look. In fact, while this is a Polish language film, you aren’t treated to much language, and thus, many subtitles at all. The story as I saw it is simple, and one of discovery. Essentially it is trying to answer the question: how can you know where you are going if you don’t know where you came from? But, it’s the performances of Agata Trzebuchowska as Ida and Agata Kulesza as Wanda, that truly make this film and allow the question to be explored and answered in a way that seamlessly meanders around the larger issues allowing actions to speak louder than words. And while the film is slow, and feels longer than it’s running time, it manages to pick up the tension as it progresses and it’s twists and discoveries, never truly feel predictable, although they never feel shockingly either unexpected.

Thinking back to watching Ida last night and I’m still not sure how to pitch it. It’s a film that’s touched me, I can see why people are raving about it, it truly is a small, simple piece of “beautiful” film making. But that’s all. It’s the type of film, I think people will microscopically look at and talk about as to the themes and cinematic styles used and I think in the future people will talk more about the Director, Pawel Pawlikowski, than the plot.

8 out of 10 stars (8 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

Comments are closed.