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BGSU Common Experience 2015-16: Ida: Discussion Questions

A collection of resources about the 2015-16 BGSU Common Experience film selection "Ida"

Questions for Discussion: Production

  1. Pawlikowski filmed Ida in full color, but chose to release the film in black and white. What do you think drove Pawlikowski to make such a decision?
  2. Pawlikowski sometimes uses extreme close ups or cutaway shots (e.g Ida’s hands). How does this help Pawlikowski speak to the audience?
  3. Notice the shades the key characters wear. Can this use of “color” be telling in any way?
  4. Several points in the film seem to almost freeze in time. One instance occurs when we pause on Wanda’s face during the trial. Another happens when Ida is about to step out of her parents’ former home. Can you think of other moments when this happens, and what effect does this have on you?
  5. Early in the film, Ida prays to a shrine situated next to the crossroads. Why would Pawlikowski choose that exact location?
  6. Wanda appears noticeably shaky after breaking into the room? Why does Pawlikowski choose to focus on Wanda’s reaction rather than showing the audience what she finds? What do you think she might have seen?
  7. Ida does not contain any elaborate sets or masses of people. In fact, Ida could be labeled as sparse in every way. Why would Pawlikowski use such simple sets with so few people? Is it a matter of aesthetics or history? Why?
  8. The final scene is the only handheld shot with a “shaky” look. Why would Pawlikowski use this effect?
  9. Notice how close we are to Ida in the final scene. We see a long road behind her, but nothing of the foreground. A car passes before we fade out. What does all of this mean to you?

Questions for Discussion: Ida

  1. In our first encounter at the convent, we see Anna (later we learn that her name was previously Ida) sitting in rank with her peers. They all dress the same, eat the same, look the same, and avoid eye contact with their superiors. Does Pawlikowski intend a farther-reaching message here?
  2. Ida has been strictly raised in a convent for most of her life. She has no recollection of her birth parents or aunt. What does Ida’s silence “say” when Wanda tells her that she is a Jewish nun?
  3. Ida rolls herself up in the curtains near the window where Wanda committed suicide. Why might Ida do this and what does it mean?
  4. For a day, Ida essentially becomes Wanda. She removes her habit, drinks, smokes, dances, and sleeps with the musician. Is this simply a tribute to Wanda, or something more?
  5. When Ida returns to the monastery, she giggles at the nuns. Why does she do this?
  6. During the shower scene, Ida pauses her duties to watch her peers shower. What do you suppose she’s thinking about and why?
  7. Think about Ida’s conversation with the musician in the bedroom. For every answer the musician gives, Ida asks “and then?” until the musician finally says, “the usual hassles. Life.” What might this response mean to Ida? 

Questions for Discussion: Wanda

  1. The “doughnut” scene is interesting because it mixes the sweetness of the doughnut with Wanda’s bitter demeanor.  Figuratively, what is bittersweet about Wanda’s speech?  
  2. Wanda refers to herself as “Red Wanda” at one point in the film. What does this nickname mean?
  3. When Wanda asks about Ida’s family or about any Jews for that matter, how do most people respond? What might their responses signify?
  4. Wanda wrecks the car while intoxicated and is pulled out by a team of horses. What might this say about class, progress, and hedonism?
  5. Why does Wanda commit suicide?
  6. The officials who find Wanda’s body give the following eulogy:

            "Comrade Wanda Gruz contributed greatly...

To the creation of a new Poland...

Tenaciously exercising People's justice...

           ..farewell comrade...

You'll live forever in our memory."

Does the eulogy underscore or undermine her existence? How? 

Questions for Discussion: Plot

  1. What is the significance of the statue in the center of the crater, if any?
  2. Why is it important for the women to dig up their family members’ bodies and re-bury them?
  3. Many Poles have criticized Ida as “anti-polish” for not clearly stating that Germany occupied Poland from 1939-1945 and that many Poles did indeed hide Jews from the Nazis. Do you agree or disagree with these critics?
  4. We find out that Ida’s family was actually killed by the Poles, not the Nazis. Why do you think this happened?
  5. Think about the scenes with windows. In what scenes do you remember seeing them and what might these windows represent in those scenes?
  6. Were you satisfied with the ending? Why would Pawlikowski choose to end this way? What do you think the future holds for Ida?
  7. After viewing Ida, can you relate themes of the story to your own thoughts, feelings, or struggles? What themes interested you the most? Did the film raise any questions about issues facing society today?  

Questions for Discussion: Popular Culture

  1. Despite strict communist regulation in the early 1960s, several styles of music were allowed. How is popular culture influenced by music? What does the music in Ida tell you about the times and movements in 1962 Poland?
  2. The young musician is the only figure in the film to successfully break through Ida’s strict code of conduct. Is he just a coincidentally handsome face, or does he symbolize something greater? Why is he able to transcend barriers that no other character can?
  3. Do the appearances and music by the young musicians seem to have a similar style to other musicians of the early 1960s? Why might this be important?

Questions for Discussion: Identity

  1. The theme for this year’s Common Experience is IDENTITY. The following questions may help support discussion about identity issues in the film.
  2. Think about Anna, who discovers after many years that her birth name was Ida.  How might this discovery impact Ida’s identity? What does her name(s) mean and where do they originate? What about Wanda? Do you think these characters’ names are a coincidence or do they somehow play into Ida’s journey of discovery?
  3. Wanda smokes, drinks, has promiscuous encounters, appears to be an atheist, and represents lower to mid level political power in Poland. These characteristics certainly contrast with Ida’s, but what does Wanda’s identity say about Poland’s state of affairs in 1962?
  4. Ida only survives because she is taken to a monastery as a child. While the nuns are shaping her current and future identity, she has no recollection of her ancestors. Does this story element parallel any of the identity issues associated with colonization?
  5. When Wanda interrogates the man about the grave site, she seems almost to become someone else, threatening to destroy him and then threatening his family’s security. Who, or what, does Wanda emulate in this scene?
  6. Wanda mocks Ida when she says, “Good Christians…your neighbors.” What does she mean? Who are the “Good Christians?”
  7. Is faith important to Wanda?  If so, in what does, or did, Wanda place her faith?  If Ida’s faith is seemingly betrayed by her birth, what is Wanda’s faith betrayed by?
  8. Wanda is also a Jew, but largely survives by working for the communist state. Considering Wanda’s history as prosecutor, what “price” has she paid in order to survive? If you were put in Wanda’s situation, what might you do?
  9. What are the various impacts in the film that were responsible for shaping Ida’s identity?