Ever since the movie “Ida” was released I’ve been thinking about it. People who know about my work with Friends of Jewish Renewal in Poland/Beit Polska are asking me for my opinion. All of this inquiry came to a fever pitch recently when “Ida” became the first Polish film to win an Oscar, from the Academy for Best Foreign Film. It was nominated in a second category, Best Cinematography.
“Ida” is a film of stunning visual power. The film was released in 2013 in Poland and won acclaim at the numerous Polish and European film festivals. Many critics including Polish ones have weighed in on their perceptions. I give considerable credence to the Polish critics because their knowledge of their own culture and history displays a concern for getting it right that is often ignored.
Dr. Joanna Auron-Gorska who lives in Poland published a brilliant reflection on the movie’s strengths and the public controversy swirling about the movie in Poland. Dr. Auron-Gorska points to the film’s lack of substantive engagement with Judaism. Neither Ida’s aunt, the disillusioned Wanda nor the God inebriated Ida feel compelled to explore the possibility that Judaism itself might have a serious spiritual substance. The aunt’s communism and Ida’s Catholicism seem locked in a battle. In my opinion, Dr. Auron-Gorska has written one of the best analysis of this film. Another blogger in Poland, Jason Streitfeld, shared many of the concerns voiced by Dr. Auron-Gorska but added this disturbing note.
In May 2014 a serious demurral about the film’s merits was published in the New Yoker. Some Polish critics also wanted to distance themselves from the movie claiming that it needed disclaimers and contextualization. Indeed, no film can encompass everything otherwise it would be another medium. In most of the world and certainly in Poland, “Ida” will stand on its merits as a film; it has many merits. Most people in Poland are proud of the films achievements in cinema.