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In the Dark

Songs of Innocence and Experience

Ida
Produced by Canal + Polska
Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski
Screenplay by Pawel Pawlikowski and Rebecca Lenkiewicz
Distributed by Music Box Films

The personal is the political: This 1960’s catchphrase defiantly bandied by leftists and feminists has always seemed to me childishly peevish.  It’s as if, in a fit of collective pique, those on the left had been stamping their feet, demanding that they be taken seriously—and right away.  Everyone else would just have to yield to the needs of the movement.  Or else!  It was the slogan of entitled brats, I had concluded.  Watching Pawel Pawlikow­ski’s film Ida, however, I confess the overworked expression took on an undeniable cogency, despite its origin.

I should quickly add that Pawlikow­ski, a Pole by birth living in London since his adolescence, doesn’t have any of his characters utter this peculiarly American slogan in his quietly shocking narrative.  It would have been supererogatory to do so.  His story is set in Soviet-dominated Poland, where the personal had been engulfed by the political.  Even the film’s protagonist, a young convent novice who is seemingly as removed from the world as could be imagined, ultimately makes contact with the brutal politics of the European 20th century.  The young woman—a girl, really—is...

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