Bread with Butter and Sugar

Another TIFF movie today. The first Polish film of a Polish-born director living in Britain. Set in the early 1960’s, a story of a novice about to take her vows. She given an opportunity to reconnect with her only surviving relative, an aunt who is a judge. The aunt tells her that she is Jewish. Then the movie becomes a sort of road trip character study, with the two women going back to the village where the girl’s parents died.

It’s filmed in black and white. The girl is framed like a Vermeer painting. There is such purity of spirit and strength in her. Her aunt is more vulnerable. She is disillusioned and cynical, full of guilt and anger.

There is an authenticity to the portrayal of life in Poland at that time – the bleakness and primitiveness of the village, the old world elegance of the aunt’s apartment, the pleasure of eating a slice of rye bread with butter and sugar sprinkled on it.

“Ida” was also shown at the Telluride Film Festival. Received a terrible review in Variety. Was called joyless. The reviewer missed the mordant humour of the dialogue, probably because that humour wasn’t universal, but one had to understand the time, place and context. The director, Pawel Pawlikowski, was at TIFF and did a Q & A after the film. He said that he hoped that the audience would see this film as more than a post-war story of Jews and Poles. Not sure that the film is as powerful without understanding the backdrop, with all its nuances. Regardless, it’s visually very striking and the two actresses who portray the girl and her aunt give flawless performances.

TIFF is an experience. Many people who attend truly love movies. That’s great. Occasionally one overhears funny exchanges in the lineup before a movie starts. Today’s funny line was: “This year slavery is a hot topic at TIFF”. What would Steve McQueen think of this?

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