Movie review: Ida (2014)

Ida is a moving story set in the early sixties in Communist Poland. The movie is a story of (re)discovering the past, a past that continues to destroys lives decades later.

Shot in black and white, Ida tells the tale of a young woman raised in a convent and on the verge of taking her vows. Her superior tells her of her aunt whom the nuns had been in contact with over the years. They had tried to cajole the aunt to take the orphan or at least visit her.

The aunt never did. Instead, Anna (Ida) goes to where her aunt is. The meeting is an uneasy start to a relationship that leads to discovery.

The aunt is Jewish and slowly relates the history of Anna’s parents. The fact that she is Jewish and her birth name is Ida, doesn’t shake Anna at all. She persists in wearing her habit and reciting her prayers. But she is intent on finding out how her parents died and where their bodies are.

Her aunt ends up coming along, becoming the driving force in this investigation. The journey opens up old wounds. They find the house where Anna’s parents lived. Subsequent “owners” hid them and then killed them.

Anna’s parents were living (hiding) with Anna’s aunt’s son, who was also killed with Anna’s parents. Strangely, Anna wasn’t. Did Anna’s aunt never seek to meet her because of the memory that Anna was saved but her own son killed?

At the gravesite of her parents and her cousin, Anna asks why she didn’t end up here too. She was told: She was tiny. No one would know she was Jewish. The boy didn’t stand a chance; he was dark and circumcised.

Anna and her aunt bundle the remains of Anna’s parents and cousin to rebury them in the family gravesite. The journey to discovering her parents opened wounds that her aunt had sealed shut with alcohol. Finding her son, confronting his murder, and reburying him pushed her over the edge. One day she simply walked out of a window in her apartment—which was several stories up.

Anna visits the apartment to tidy up and ends up temporarily taking on the persona of her aunt, dressing in her clothes and shoes and even smoking and drinking like her.

After her aunt’s funeral, she seeks out the musician that she and her aunt had picked up during their travels. After a night with him, she dons her habit and goes back to the convent, shutting the door to the past and to any alternative future outside of the convent.

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