Recently, the Polish movie Ida made a tremendous emotional impact on me. It is the sort of movie about which the less is known before seeing it the better, in order to approach it without any expectations. It is wonderfully minimalistic in expression but extremely harrowing emotions are palpable, gut-wrenching, heart-stopping all throughout its duration. The shadows of the past chased after by the two main female characters cover the movie’s narrated time with a sticky, suffocating sediment. I keep wondering, though, why the director chose Mozart’s “Jupiter Symphony” to sound in one of the saddest moments? In astrology Jupiter correlates with faith, expansion, courage, optimism, redemption. The two main female characters: the “saint” and the “sinner,” in my humble view, both possess these qualities, which gracefully uplifts the movie to Jupiterian heights. No matter the stark circumstances of the post-war communist Poland, no matter the truth about the past, both Ida and her aunt achieve the seemingly impossible in their performances: they evoke the sublime and the beautiful. Ida’s face seems to have come straight from the canvas of Vermeer, while her aunt has the fleshy dignity of Lautrec’s ladies of the evening. She evokes Mary Magdalene. In one of the interviews, the director of the movie said:
“One of my favorite writers is Chekhov. I love his attitude toward the world. Just accept things for what they are. Don’t judge. Be moral as you tell your story, but have no moral at the end. Just look at it.”
I find it quite impressive that Pawlikowski achieved the impossible paradox: his movie is still and minimalistic, seemingly detached, and yet it lingeringly conveys the turmoil, passion, frenzy and intensity of the full on engagement with the terrors of existence.