Updated: Feb 22, 2021
This week at OxNet Global Film Discussion Group, we talked about “Ida”, a Polish film directed by Paweł Pawlikowski, set in 1962. The film follows the story of a young woman named Anna who, just as she is preparing to take her vows as a nun, is contacted by her only living relative, her aunt Wanda. She informs Anna that her true name is actually Ida Lebenstein; she comes from a Jewish family despite her Catholic upbringing. Wanda is a strong-willed intellectual Communist resistance fighter, who’s life contrasts to the sobriety and chastity of Ida’s. She expresses her beliefs passionately and persistently throughout her life and contributes immensely to the fight against the German occupation of Poland, famously sending “men to their deaths”.
The group discussed whether faith has to be religious or not; the devotion of Ida’s nunhood and Wanda’s contributions to the communist resistance seem somehow analogous. Their contrasting personalities and surroundings are obvious, but they find connection in their grief; Pawlikowski explores the frustration and sorrow of anti-Semitism and post-Holocaust Poland as the two women set out on a journey, uncovering their painful family history. Among other things, we discussed how Ida’s ambiguous expression, the focus on her
eyes and the greyscale visuals create an eerie atmosphere of contemplation and
loss, and we debated whether Ida was a strong character or conformist, reaching
the conclusion that the amount she spoke or smiled over the course of the film
had little to do with this.
The discussion group is an excellent starting point for people looking to get more into watching and analysing films. It’s a great atmosphere and the group leaders ask questions and follow-up questions that challenge us to think beyond first impressions. I’m really enjoying the range, and it’s interesting to get a glimpse of different cultures each week; this week was very important to me on a personal level as I am of Polish-Jewish heritage and so identify with elements of the film, but on a broader level I feel it’s vital to widen our scopes in terms of cultural knowledge and this programme represents that very well.
- Lucy Nelson, Grey Coat Hospital School