On Feb. 22 at the Academy Awards the Polish film “Ida” won the best foreign language film award.
Set in 1962 Poland, “Ida” is a black-and-white film about a young girl, Ida, who is a nun in training. When it is discovered she has a distant aunt, she goes to live with her for a while. Her aunt, Wanda Gruz, tells Ida she is a Jew, something Ida did not know before, and that her parents died sometime during World War II. The rest of the film follows Ida’s journey with her aunt as they search out answers as to what truly happened to Ida’s parents.
The first element of “Ida” that stood out to me was the lack of sound. It was a very quiet film. There were very little sound effects or parts of a score. While there was music that played in the film, it was used very seldomly. Besides those few moments of hearing a piano playing or a Polish jazz band, the only sounds were soft-spoken dialogue. It was obvious that Pawel Pawlikowski, the director and one of the writers of the film, was not afraid of having long, quiet shots. Because not a lot of films share this quality with “Ida,” it was refreshing.
The quiet factor of the film also enhanced the acting. Knowing there will be no score to enrich the emotions shown by the actors is a lot of pressure on the actors’ parts. However, everyone excelled in their performances. I did not miss music, even in the emotional scenes. The actors embodied their characters so much that I was drawn into them in every moment. Even when they sat in silence, which happened quite a bit, I could easily imagine what all the characters were thinking. Their posture, body language, how they walked, even where they looked at times, spoke volumes about their character.
One element of the film I did not appreciate was the anti-climactic feel of certain scenes. There were three times in the movie witha plot twist. With all three moments, there was no build up. If Pawlikowski wanted to stay with the theme of quietness, I am not sure how there would have been a build up. Surely, though, there could have been some way.
Overall, “Ida” was a very enjoyable film. The two extremely different characters of a young nun, Ida, and a drunk, carefree judge, Gruz, kept the film always interesting, and at times, comical. Ida’s spirituality and how it changed throughout the film was also why I enjoyed it. Pawlikowski reminded viewers of Ida’s Christian nature by having a cross in the background of the frame several times when Ida was the main focus. However, Ida by no means stayed stagnant in her religious thoughts throughout the movie. Her change and responses to certain situations, opposed to her aunt’s, were definitely thought-provoking.
If you enjoy loud, action-packed movies that are plot-driven, do not watch this movie. However, if you appreciate simple, character-driven films and do not mind subtitles, get on Netflix and spend 80 minutes watching “Ida.”