Memorial Day Weekend, the start of another Chicago summer. But in the dark, at
the local art house, the Holocaust is always with us.
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.
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
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
Click here for the Music
Click here for the Renaissance
"Anna/Ida" (Agata Trzebuchowska) with her "Aunt Wanda" (Agata Kulesza).
Photo Credits: Sylwester Kazmierczak and Liliana