It’s Memorial Day Weekend, the start of another Chicago summer. But in the dark, at the local art house, the Holocaust is always with us.
A new film from Poland called Ida opens today at the Music Box Theatre in Andersonville and the Renaissance Place in Highland Park. This film has an extraordinarily high rating of 96% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, but as is often the case when it comes to films about the Holocaust, I do not agree with the consensus of my colleagues.
Ida is set in Lodz in 1962. “Anna” (Agata Trzebuchowska), a teenage novice in a Polish Convent, is about to take her vows when the Mother Superior (Halina Skoczynska) insists that she visit her “Aunt Wanda” (Agata Kulesza), someone whose existence had been hidden from her until that very moment.
And as soon as they do meet face-to-face, Wanda immediately informs Anna that her real name is Ida and – surprise, surprise – her parents were Jewish.
Even though it is only 80 minutes long, Ida feels much longer. In fact, with its long, wordless, static – albeit beautifully composed – shots, it often felt interminable to me. But my fundamental problem with Ida is that the screenplay (co-written by director Pawel Pawlikowski and British playwright Rebecca Lenkiewicz) is so deliberately spare that the film becomes a Rorschach Test. And sad to say, I think the less you know about the Holocaust, the more likely you will be to misinterpret what little bits of information are actually provided in the film.
Some will say Pawlikowski leaves these “big questions” to the audience, but I think that’s a cop out. Me, I don’t think Pawlikowski has given sufficient thought to “the Jewish Question.” I think he’s really interested in creating beautiful images of Poland before the thaw, but he has adroitly used the Holocaust to add “gravitas” to an otherwise thin aesthetic exercise.
To read my full review of Ida (which includes several “spoiler alerts”), visit my blog Second City Tzivi.
Click here for the Music Box schedule.
Click here for the Renaissance Place schedule.
"Anna/Ida" (Agata Trzebuchowska) with her "Aunt Wanda" (Agata Kulesza).
Photo Credits: Sylwester Kazmierczak and Liliana Milewska