Ida (Paweł Pawlikowski, 2013)
I somehow missed Pawlikowski’s Cold War (2018) by blinking at an inopportune moment, but I remember enjoying his Margate-set, faintly post-apocalyptic immigrant drama Last Resort (2000) with Dina Korzun and Paddy Considine. There I might have reached for Ken Loach and Lindsay Anderson, but here there is a feel of Tarkovsky without quite so much striving for poetry, in glorious black and white.
Poland, early 1960s: Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) is about to take her vows to enter a nunnery, but is told to visit her only living relative, Wanda Gruz (Agata Kulesza), her aunt and a judge. Gruz is unwelcoming at first, but reveals that Anna was born Ida Lebenstein and her parents, Róża and Haim, were killed during the war. Gruz agrees to take Anna/Ida to find their unmarked graves. Along the route, they meet a young jazz saxophonist, Lis (Dawid Ogrodnik), who clearly has the hots for Anna.
So, we perhaps imagine this as a Tarkovsky road movie, although we don’t see the visible haunting of the past in the mise en scène, rather a series of held, static frames, through doorways, through windows, often distanced, interspersed with fluid tracking shots. The family secrets are slowly unveiled, and the complex web of guilt and its fallout dating back to the German occupation and the compromises that needed to made to survive, but at a cost.
Ida/Anna can retreat from this history, into the deeper history of poverty, chastity and obedience, and away, perhaps, from the future we know of her country with Solidarność and the fall of the Berlin Wall. We are told that she really needs to know of the world before she departs it — she has been in the nunnery since toddlerdom — and there is some drama to be had from her temptation. The interesting thing is how much you want her to fall rather than be ready.