Foreign film “Ida” makes statement at Ebertfest

By Jack Heyden

“Ida” was one of the most acutely-shot films of the year, and its achievement for Best Foreign Language film and nomination for cinematography were both well deserved.

Set in 1962 in Poland, Ida goes to live with her aunt and learns the true story of her heritage. Her aunt, a sensual alcoholic, clashes immensely with Ida’s stoic nature and tendency to take the high road. The pair journey to find the resting place of Ida’s parents: Jews killed during the war.

We didn’t see the camera move more than an inch until the very end of the film. Every shot preceding the final moments was still, and most often, rather wide, which complimented the film incredibly. The extremely laggard pace of the camera matched well with Ida herself, a young woman who was just weeks from taking her vows as a Catholic nun.

The film acts as a phenomenal parable to the struggles of womanhood and the temptations of sin. I found myself rooting for Ida to be bad, and judging by reactions from the Ebertfest crowd, I think most agreed with me.

The film is in black and white, which is far more of an intended effect than a tribute to old cinema. With color, the tone that hovers over Ida and her aunt throughout their journey would be lost.

Another interesting tactic used by director Pawel Pawlikowski was to use no soundtrack until the final moments. Music was only heard if the characters were either playing or listening to it.

“Ida” was one of those phenomenal moments in cinema. It shows how the audience can be affected by the little details of a film. If it were shot in any other way, “Ida” would not be the strong, impactful film that it is. It gets the audience involved as they try to figure out why the director made each decision that he did. Even to those with no background in film analysis, one can tell there is uniqueness to it.

“Ida” truly is a puzzle that needs solving, and I know to fully understand it, I will have to watch it several more times. It is a shame that foreign-language films are so easily overlooked by broad audiences and rarely get wide releases theatrically. Luckily there are opportunities like Ebertfest for films like this to see their day.

Jack is a sophomore in Media.

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