I’ve mentioned it before, but it has been a weird, weird Spring for us, movie-wise. There’s no shortage of movies out, but a serious shortage of consensus about what the best (or even good) movies are. We’ve done all right, but it’s been a struggle. (And that’s with going to far fewer movies this year!)
Ida was supposed to be slam dunk, with a suspicious >95% critic rating and a suspicious-for-other-reasons 80% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Meanwhile The Boy had not gotten much sleep, and this is not a movie you want to go to if you’re groggy.
Ida is the story of a young orphan woman in the ‘60s raised in a Polish convent who’s about to take her vows. But before she’s allowed to the Mother Superior insists she visit her one surviving family member—the one who opted not to raise her.
She doesn’t really want to go, and the aunt doesn’t really have anything to say to her at first. But Aunt Wanda, who’s a mucky-muck judge and also a hard-drinking, hard-partying, uh, paragon of independent Communist womanhood warms up before Ida leaves, and the two embark on a journey to visit the grave of Ida’s parents.
Now, Ida, despite being about the aftermath of the Holocaust in Poland, is basically the opposite of Aftermath. Aftermath is great action/thriller/mystery film-making, independent of the subject matter, even as it wields its subject matter like a sledgehammer.
Ida is all gorgeous black-and-white photography with blocking that would make James Wong Howe weep. Every shot is set up to reveal the characters’ relationship with each other, with society, with God. And once set, the camera never moves. Not until the very last scene do we get a tracking shot, of Ida walking down a desolate road, suitcase in hand.
As a narrative though, Ida is basically: A, then B, then C, then D. Or, maybe A, B or C? A. D, E or F? D. In other words, the events simply occur one after the other, and they’re resolved with an almost pathological aversion to drama.
It’s definitely an approach, and not an approach for everyone. I was engaged by the photography enough to where I was involved, but I was well-rested. The Boy came out kind of scratching his head, not sure if it was a bad movie or a good movie that he’d missed the point of.
Honestly, I couldn’t say one way or the other. I loved the look of it. There was a compelling narrative there but the presentation was as cold as possible.
This from the director of My Summer of Love, which I deliberately avoided because it had a similar creepy look, and a similar critic/audience split (though audiences liked that movie even less).