Two scenes from Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida :
Scene One :
In the first, the car has stopped at a fork in the road; the younger of two women, Anna, kneels in front of a crucifix embedded in stone, hands together in prayer, the grey of her novice’s uniform merging with the stone itself, the grey of the empty field, the surface of the road; the older woman, Wanda, stands by the car, smoking, maintaining distance, disbelief. Beyond and behind them both everything is swathed in mist. Poland some time in the 1960s.
Taken to a convent as a young child after her parents were killed during the Nazi occupation and brought up Catholic, Anna has just learned – weeks before taking her final vows – that she is a Jew. Propelled by Wanda, her aunt and sole surviving relative, she has set out to discover the truth of what happened to her parents. A journey in which she will seek to discover the truth about herself.
Another scene which I can only describe, not reproduce :
Left alone by her aunt, Anna/Ida has gone down into the ballroom of the hotel where they are staying, drawn by the music of the young saxophone player who had earlier hitched a lift in their car. He plays Coltrane’s Naima, talks to her as a young man would to a young woman. Do you ever uncover your head, he asks? Do you realise the effect you have upon people?
Upstairs, later, alone in front of the mirror, she uncovers her head, takes down her hair.
Pawlikowski’s film is, I think, a small masterpiece, beautifully, carefully acted (by Agata Trzebuchowska as Anna/Ida & Agata Kulesza as Wanda) and carefully, beautifully shot in overlapping shades of grey; each shot, each scene beautifully, exactly framed – perfect in its composition, but, like, say, a solo by Thelonious Monk, often coming at you from an unsuspected angle, encouraging you to look – listen –anew.