Some films that are black and white would be just as striking in color. Some color films would benefit from black and white filmmaking. Ida however is a film that is in black and white, and wouldn’t captivate any other way. These black and white images are stunning, several shots will stick in my mind for some time. This film is set in the 1960s, and you could have convinced me it was shot in that time period as well. The black and white images feel as timeless as Bergman’s films, and they insist they could only exist in black and white just as mid-period Fellini did.
Set in 1960s Poland, the plot follows young Ida, who just before taking her vows as a nun goes to visit her only living relative, Aunt Wanda and uncovers a dark family secret dating back to the Holocaust.
Ida and Wanda are stark contrasts, just like the black and white coloring on the film. Ida a novice nun, and Wanda enjoys drinking, smoking and picking up men. But let’s not forget about the greys in the frame. These two may have stark differences in how they live their lives, but there is a mutual unspoken respect between the two.
Agata Trzebuchowska is captivating as Ida, acting as a stone against her circumstances. Her facial expressions are minimal, letting the audience project onto her. Her dark eyes are piercing and otherworldly, adding to her allure and mystery. Agata Kulesza compliments her co-star well, taking care of the emotive and assertive actions.
The framing consistently provides a sense of inferiority towards these two characters. The pair are continuously dwarfed by their surroundings. Even in close-ups they don’t take up the largest amount of the frame. This isn’t necessarily implying a cold indifference to their situation, but rather suggesting that they are both isolated and under significant unseen pressure from the world – but that neither will admit it. It causes us to look at our own lives, are we dominated by our surroundings? Or can we dominate the frame?