Above all, Ida is a film about a society haunted by its past. Its director Pawel Pawlikowski was born in Poland in 1957. Like his central character Anna, he has a divided past. His mother’s family were traditional Catholics, his father’s mother was Jewish and was killed at Auschwitz. “I only found out as an adult, because my father never talked about it,” he told The Guardian. He grew up in Warsaw. “You grow up among tombs,” he has said, “It’s a city littered with ghosts.”
Paweł Pawlikowski’s extraordinary film is a haunting reflection on the relations between Jews and Catholics, memory and forgetting. It is an archaeological dig through layers of time and memory: back into the war, but also into the complexities of post-war Poland, a country haunted by the recent past, both the Holocaust but also by Polish Stalinism. And then there is the Poland of 1962, when the film is set. There is the centuries-old world of rural poverty, Catholicism and anti-Semitism. And laid above it, is a new Poland, where things are beginning to change, the world personified by a young jazz saxophonist (Dawid Ogrodnik), with a crush on the teenage novice nun Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska), who introduces her to the music of John Coltrane, and to the first stirrings of 1960s youth culture.
Pawlikowski and British playwright, Rebecca Lenkiewicz, have written a gripping story and also a beautifully filmed and framed one, captured in black-and-white. The effect is one of haunting stillness, conjuring easily the wretched poverty of rural Poland and post-war Communism.
Ida is available on DVD and on demand.