A closer look at… Ida

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Ida is rated 12, contains suicide scene. The film is available on DVD.

Poland, the 1960s. Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska) is a young nun who has grown up within the sheltered confines of the convent. Before she takes her vows, her superiors decree that she must meet her only living relative – her aunt, Wanda (Agata Kulesza).

Anna travels to stay with Wanda in her city home, and meets a woman about as different from herself as she could have imagined. A heavy-drinking court judge who loves dancing, jazz music and men, Wanda’s carefree persona hides a painful past. She quickly reveals to Ida that the family is, in fact, Jewish: Anna’s real name is Ida, and her parents were murdered during the anti-Semitic purges of the Second World War.

Together, the mismatched pair set off to find where Anna’s parents are buried. But digging up the past, it soon becomes clear, will change the direction of both of their futures.

Dig Deeper

  • What was your immediate response to the film, and why? Is it comparable to anything else you have seen? Is it the kind of film you would normally watch?

‘Pawlikowski’s aesthetic is primed to consider the often-rocky relationship between world conflict and heavenly grace.’ –  Critic Glenn Heath Jr

  • Which visual aspects of Ida did you find particularly striking, and why? What was unusual about the framing of the characters, and why do you think the director shot the film this way? How might the film’s images reflect its themes of ‘world conflict and heavenly grace’?
  • What is the significance of music and silence in Ida? What kinds of music do we hear, and what importance do they have to the characters? How do music and silence contribute to the atmosphere of the film?

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  • How did you respond to the character of Anna/Ida, and Agata Trzebuchowska’s performance? What likeable qualities did the character have, and did anything about her frustrate you? What ending did you want for her, and what did you make of her final choices?
  • What was your reaction to Wanda, and Agata Kulesza’s performance? How significant are the hints about Wanda’s past as a ruthless military prosecutor, and did these alter your reaction to her? How is Wanda changed and challenged by her journey through the film, and how did you feel about her final choices?
  • How did Ida deal with the emotionally loaded subject of the Holocaust? Which scenes did you find the most affecting and why? In what sense might ‘less is more’ apply for filmmakers when telling tragic stories?
  • How does the film explore ideas around identity? Which factors – faith, family, culture, upbringing, personal choice – are most significant to Anna as she explores her own identity, and what are some key turning points for her? What might people in our culture consider to be the most important aspects of someone’s identity?

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  • How is religion presented as part of everyday life in Poland? How would you describe the kind of faith which Anna has when we meet her? What, if anything, might be the difference between a ‘cultural faith’ and a ‘personal faith’?

‘You should try. Otherwise, what good are these vows of yours?’ – Wanda

  • How is Anna’s outlook tested by the pleasures and possibilities she encounters outside the convent? What is the significance of her relationship with Lis (Dawid Ogrodnik), the saxophonist? To what extent do we need to ‘try’ alternative ways of living before choosing our path?

‘I wanted to make…a film which is moral, but has no lessons to offer.’ – Director Pawel Pawlikowski

  • Does the film have anything to say about the concept of goodness – do you agree that it is ‘moral, but has no lessons to offer’? How do Anna and Wanda each wrestle with their conflicting moral impulses? To what extent is it possible to live a good life in a morally complex world?
  • How do Anna and Wanda react to each other’s’ contrasting moral codes? Why does Wanda feel judged by Anna, and why might this be a common reaction to religious people? How do the two women build a relationship despite their differing outlooks, and how might this be possible in our own society?

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  • How does the film portray Poland as a country traumatised by its past? What effect does the trauma have on individuals and relationships? How might countries in which atrocities have taken place go about dealing with their past, and what is necessary for true reconciliation to happen? What benefit is there in pursuing the truth about, or justice for, wrongs which happened a long time ago?

‘What if you go there and discover there’s no God?’ – Wanda

  • How is Anna’s outlook tested by coming face to face with evil and suffering in the world outside the convent? What, if anything, does the film have to say about questions of God and suffering? Might it still be possible to believe in God in a world where atrocities happen, and why, or why not?

‘Your Jesus didn’t hide in a cave with books, but went out into the world.’ – Wanda

  • How does the film question and complicate distinctions between the ‘sacred’ and the ‘secular’? How does Wanda’s idea of Jesus differ from Anna’s, and how did you react to each? To what extent do you think choosing a ‘spiritual’ life requires separation from the world, and what might this separation look like?

‘I won’t let you waste your life.’ – Wanda

  • Does the film seem to view a life of religious devotion as a ‘waste’, and what reason can you give for your answer? What alternatives are open to Anna, and do these seem any more meaningful? How can we best go about choosing a meaningful path in life?

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Sophie Lister

Damaris resources bring films to new audiences, start conversations, and enrich lives. Find out more at www.damarismedia.com Here at the Damaris Film Blog, we publish regular discussion guides to help you make the most of the latest cinema releases.

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