University of Minnesota
Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies


The Past cannot remain Buried: Polish Memory in the film Ida

The Past cannot remain Buried: Polish Memory in the film Ida

By Jodi Elowitz

, directed by Pawel Pawlikowski, is a beautiful work of cinema, lovingly paying homage to other Polish filmmakers in his use of cinematography and black and white to convey a strong film about Poland's troubled past.

Ida poster.jpg

Like Aftermath, the other recent film about polish memory and the Holocaust, the main characters in Ida are looking for an answer to their own identities lost amongst the secrets of the past. Both films deal with the idea of memory and what the characters, and to an extent the viewers, think we know about history, and yet what is uncovered is far worse than what we can imagine.

In life there are many ways of dealing with the past. We can claim ignorance and refuse knowledge out of a sense of innocence or misunderstanding or we can tell ourselves many things to help us suppress memories too painful to recall. Days, weeks, months and years might go by, but finally when confronted with the truth, we can no longer hide and must reconcile who we were in the past with who we have become now. The film does this by examining the characters against the crossroads (symbolically) of Poland and its memory of the Holocaust, Stalinism, Catholic religion, Nationalism and Judaism.

There are many confessions and truths unveiled in Ida. Pawliskowski's decision to shoot in black and white gives the film the stark contrasts, using the dark and light to highlight the past and the present, the living and the dead, as well as issues of good and evil, right and wrong. Shadows and grey tones fall over the landscape and the faces of the characters to evoke beauty, sorrow, wonder and desperation.

The film is like a photograph found in a drawer, creating a sense of nostalgia not for the good old days but more towards the notion of putting things right. The fog of the past has been lifted on Poland and now with history unearthed they can find ways to live with the truth in order to move forward.

IDA opens at Uptown Theater on May 30th and Edina Cinema on June 6th.

To watch the trailer, please click here.

For more information on the film, please visit Music Box Films.