IDA: Two Divergent Paths Away From Loss

The Academy Award winning film, Ida by Pawel Pawlikowski, is beautifully poignant visually, thematically, and psychologically. A haunting story of loss and the sometimes- unwinnable struggle against the overwhelming feelings involved. Loss is difficult under any circumstance. In Ida, we witness an aunt and niece estranged in the aftermath of the Nazi occupation in Poland. Both victims of almost inconceivable losses, they take very divergent paths in their attempts to survive. But, those paths also take them away from life instead of towards it.

What does Ida tell us about ways of coping that don’t allow life to go on? “I’m a slut and you’re a saint”, Wanda says to her niece, Ida. This seemingly off-hand statement says quite a lot about how each copes with their losses. I wondered, as I watched the film – which one is trying to save the other? But, actually, both are unreachable. Both have their forms of retreat from life –and primarily from reliving the past.

Wanda had a son. He was killed. She blames herself. When she’s locked up for driving drunk, she argues for immunity. What she really wants is immunity from feeling anything at all. That’s why she drinks. That’s why she has sex with different men every night. Anonymous men. Not to feel. But, when she goes back into the past with Ida – she begins to feel resurgences of inconsolable guilt and sadness. She can’t change her decision to leave her son to fight the German occupation. She can’t change that she couldn’t save her sister. She cries. She feels too much. Suicide is her retreat; the only thing that can bring the total immunity from feeling she’s desperate for.

Ida had a family. She may not consciously remember, but she did. She’s lived almost her entire life as Anna in a convent. Yet, she was once a happy baby in her mother, Roza’s, arms. She knows, in a memory stored deep in her body, what she’s lost. Ida is cloistered away from life, differently than Wanda, but in a retreat that also stops her from feeling or wanting anything. When she allows a taste of life with Lis, the smile on her face when she lies in his arms is unmistakable. A memory. A longing. His words might promise a family – yet, she knows what it is to lose one. Running back to the convent assures her she’ll never lose anyone again.

Alone in the world by fate or by toughening up and turning away from human contact, neither Ida nor Wanda have mourned their losses. Neither has help to negotiate and work out all the feelings and fears loss brings. Neither has help to open up to a chance at love again. The only option either can see is one form of escape or another.

For ways loss brings people together, READ MORE HERE

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