Monday, October 6, 2014

The silence of a Polish film

One of the striking things about the memorable Polish film Ida is its silence. Scenes unfold without much music and in square frames reminiscent of films from 1962, when the story is set. This keeps the characters generally distant from the viewer, shadowed in the mystery that informs them.

The main character, who is called Anna, a novice about to take final vows in a Catholic convent somewhere in Poland, is told by her only relative, Wanda, that, in fact, the young woman's name is Ida Lebenstein. She was a Jewish child taken from her parents during the war and raised in an orphanage.

She responds to this, and to all the other surprises that await her, with a quiet reserve and stillness as well as with wide eyes. As she and her aunt travel in search of the family's burial place, we are shown, amid the grim Polish countryside, glimmers of light and meaning as one chapter in the history of European suffering is illuminated with a remarkable eloquence.

The characters have mysterious depths and raise unanswered questions, and the narrative generates a restrained suspense. This is not a movie with broad appeal--unless you are looking for something artful and purely cinematic with a spiritual depth.

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