Saturday, April 18, 2015

Ebert Thoughts ‘15—Ida (2014) ****

PG-13, 82 min.
Director: Pawel Pawlikowski
Writers: Pawel Pawlikowski, Rebecca Lenkiewicz
Starring: Agata Trzebuchowska, Agata Kulesza, Dawid Ogrodnik, Jerzy TrelaAdam Szyszkowski, Halina Skoczynska

So, I’ve reviewed this film before. It’s easy to concentrate on the central character here, Anna, the nun who discovers she’s a Jew just before she takes her vows. This time I’d like to concentrate a little more on Wanda, her aunt. Wanda is a very interesting woman. This is the 1960s, and Wanda appears to be a fairly powerful woman as a state prosecutor. Wanda has as much of a journey to take as Anna here. It is Wanda who takes them on their search to find Anna’s parent’s graves. Of course, that journey leads to the revelation of a dark family secret, a secret Wanda must be very aware Anna will discover.

There must have been a great deal of guilt felt about World War II on many sides. Of course many Germans felt guilt. Many went along with what they knew was wrong out of fear of what would happen to them if they didn’t. There were many Nazi sympathizers, even among the countries they invaded. “Sympathizers” is really the wrong word. Just because they didn’t stand in the way, doesn’t mean they sympathized with the Nazi cause.

Certainly there is that to be found in this movie, but Wanda represents another kind of guilt. Survivor’s guilt must’ve lead to a great deal of suicides in the years following the war. Wanda, however, buried her feelings of guilt and spun them into a sort of crusade for Communism. As a state prosecutor, she must’ve sought some justice for the crimes committed against her country and her own family. So set in her crusade she couldn’t be bothered to even inform her only surviving relative, Anna, that she was not an orphan, or even a Catholic for that matter. Of course, it was really her guilt and her own personal loss that prevented her from acknowledging Anna’s existence for so many years. But that guilt also drove her to be the woman she became.

She sleeps with men, many men. This has become ritual for her. It could be that it is her way of dominating the male psychology that led to the rest of her family’s demise. It could be some strange way to connect with the son she lost. She drinks heavily. She smokes. She is damaged despite her achievements. She engages in all the vices that Anna’s Christian beliefs argue against, but her journey is probably the most vital to Anna’s requirements to take her vows. Anna’s lived such a sheltered life, she doesn’t know what it means to give up what she would be giving up. In the end Wanda ends up sacrificing Anna’s purity for her, so she can move on from the shadow of the war and live the proper Christian life she’s devoted herself to. This is something she could not have done in earnest without Wanda’s insistence on justice and sacrifice through vice. Wanda gives Anna the understanding of the world she needs to be a curator of it.

Read my previous entry on Ida here.

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