Ida – film about memory

Ida is a drama made by Pawlikowski, whose first film, Sister of Mercy, was his contribution to directing Ida. Ida is a very important film for Pawlikowski and for Polish cinematography. At first glance, it seems that the film is about a young Polish nun whose aunt spoiled her innocence. In fact, this black-and-white film is about Polish cultural memory.

Since film is a product of culture as well as an object of art, it can be a subject for analysis. It can also be the subject of discourse analysis. The movie contains an extended range of semiotic means involved in communication: language, tone of voice, etc. In movies, moving pictures combined with sound, colors, and language create the final message.

On the screen, we see black-and-white pictures. This is Pawlikowski’s illustration of the 1960s in Poland in winter scenery. What is more, at the beginning, the story revolves around opposition represented by the black and white imagery. We see the lives of a novice nun named Ida and her aunt, Wanda. Ida is sinless, and her aunt’s life is full of sins. When the plot is developing, we see that the main characters are no longer black or white.

When the plot is considered, we get to know Ida just before she takes the vow as a nun in the Catholic Church. She is asked to visit her relative before continuing with the vows; it occurs that her only relative is a Jewish communist called Wanda. Wanda tells the young nun that she is also Jewish. When the nun asks her about her parents’ grave, Wanda warns that the truth can hurt, but in the end, Wanda takes her on a long journey in search of the grave. From that moment, we start the long road through the Polish villages and towns of the 1960s Polish People’s Republic. The journey reveals the mischief linked to Ida’s parents deaths and ends with Wanda’s suicide. This is what we see at the very first level. But the purpose of discourse analysis is to reveal the final message of the story or detect the content of a work of art as a historical phenomenon reflecting a political, social, ideological, and artistic situation.

This black-and-white movie shows so many colors. Ida is a film about acceptance and understanding  that we are more complex and not simply black and white. Wanda represents not only power but also weakness. Contrary to all communists, Wanda offers Ida no censorship—thus, the truth. Ida had to accept that her survivors were not only white. At the same time, Wanda fails to work through the trauma of her own past as an immoral communist. In the end, she committed suicide.

Ida tells how people remember the past. It is a story about what people want to remember and what they want to forget, and how this process depends on society, the state, and those who have power.

The film can be considered anti-Polish as it reveals many Polish shames, such as antisemitism, and shows Poles also in active roles during the war. This is a film which shows the complexity of human life. Such a narrative was forbidden during communism in Poland. Fortunately, since that time, Poland has changed much.

Ida is perfect illustration of the dark side of Polish history that we are obliged to preserve in our collective memory.  Pawlikowski highlights in this film that acceptance is the best way to heal.


Last post


Ada Krawiec.jpg

Just Rethink it... and more. Come to that. Writer. Copywriter.

Writer, copywriter, essayist, screenwriter, prose writer and author of texts for academic media.
Scroll to Top