At one point in the movie Ida a young woman preparing to take her vows and commit to a life as a nun is asked about what it means to sacrifice a life of carnal love and sin when she has never experienced it. If one does not have thoughts of the flesh than surely that detracts from the meaningfulness of devoting yourself to a life without it. Human instinct and devotion is at the heart of Pawel Pawlikowski’s moving drama about finding your place in the world. How much does where we come from determine who we are? Anna has grown up in a convent. Orphaned as a baby, she has known no life outside of the church walls. Before taking her final vows she is told that she has one living relative; an Aunt. Anna is instructed to go and visit her mother’s sister, in order to learn more about herself, before committing to a life with Christ. Anna learns some unexpected truths about her history upon first meeting her Aunt. Before long, Anna is far from the convent; on a mission to uncover a horrifying truth about her parents and her family history. Set in sixties Poland, Ida deals with the horrors of the Holocaust and the families still suffering from it, decades later. Based on the director’s own life experiences, Ida won Best Film at last week’s BAFTAs and is all set to win again at the Oscars. This is story-telling on a glorious level. Ida uses black and white to tell a story of many colours.
We join Anna as she not only experiences the real world but starts to doubt her beliefs due to the evil and sin all around her. Ida is a majestic journey into what it means to belief in God in a world so flawed and damaged. How we see the world is determined by what we’ve seen of it. Does the more we experience mean we understand more of it or does it just bring doubt? These are questions all conjured up by Ida. Ryszard Lenczewski and Lukasz Zal’s cinematography gives Ida its distinctiveness. The bottom thirds of characters’ faces are cut off to make way for light and architecture. They use lighting and tone to cause the actors’ eyes to lose the separation of iris and pupil. Anna has black eyes. It is like something from a horror movie and yet more emotion is caught through this blackness than if there was blue, green or brown to be seen. Similarly with the eyes of the characters, the film’s black and white aesthetic captures more tones and textures than colour ever could. Black and white, when used as precisely as this, is louder than a rainbow. This is a short and exquisite film about war, commitment, dedication and betrayal. Ida proves that films can be as epic in 80 minutes as it can in 180. Spiritual, hauntingly beautiful and desperately sad, Ida is outstanding. It is moving beyond comparison, making all the Best Film nominees look pretty fickle and meaningless.
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