Fashion | Ida: Shades of Black and White

| July 9, 2014

Ida-movie-reviewEDITORIAL – A limited release film, Ida captivates its viewer with contrasting cinematography and a dark storyline. Set in Poland in the late 1950s, Ida is a beautiful but silent young woman on the verge of marriage—to God—when she is told she must meet her only living relative. Cementing the film’s visual imagery of contrast by using black and white footage, many other similarities are drawn.

Ida and her aunt are of very opposing view points and, because of her, Ida is led to see a different side of herself and different colors in the art of life—one which she may not have known existed. Although this is the most distinguishing characteristic of differences between black and white, the viewer may infer many others along these same lines. For example, differences between life and death, war and peace, concrete and abstract, what is art and what isn’t, what can be interpreted and what can’t, jewish beliefs and catholic beliefs, and the belief or disbelief in God are all considered in the film. The setting of black and white, implying a distinct line between black and white, is further cemented by her aunt’s career. As a judge, her aunt is often called upon to see things in black and white, thereby also deciding what is right and wrong. Similarly, Ida (as a nun), while not judging others serves a higher power who does.This creates an interesting dynamic between the two women. In very much the same way the opening scene displays Ida painting a statue of Jesus, the closing scenes of the movie display the ways in which she has painted, or created, her own Jesus after her experiences.

The black and white themes throughout the film ask the viewer, and Ida, what they consider to be black and white, or right and wrong, and how they see the two things characterized. Is what is black decidedly wrong without a doubt? Is what is white another descriptor of purity, or what is right in the eyes of God? Who gets to decide and why so? And is there room for color? In a black and white film, anything of color (whether it is good or bad) is made black in the footage. In the same way, viewers can infer that those who see things in black and white, or right and wrong, lack the ability to see in color; and, therefore, what they do see in color must inevitably be black in a strictly black and white setting. Colors are simply not allowed.

The viewer might also feel, while watching this film in black and white, unable to place the time period or the exact location of the film. Although the film was obviously only recently brought to life, I felt—while sitting in the theatre—I was watching a documentary from the 1940s or 1950s which was only recently found. I felt I was intruding on a family’s personal life by watching their home footage. And the ability to to transport a viewer, in my mind, is one of the deciding factors on whether or not a film is good or bad.

Finally, the viewer may also infer characteristics of art throughout the film. Every scene is something which could be made into a photograph. There’s not one shot that wouldn’t drive a critical thinker insane trying to interpret. And, in the end, the interpretation of what is black and white, or interpreting the abstract until it can be easily understood, is ultimately the point of this coming of age story. Ida finds out that her mother is an artist and, it is my personal belief, that this makes her consider who she is and what she can make out of her life. Whether or not she gives up the nunnery, or Catholicism in general, is something you’ll just have to watch the movie to see.

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