Unusual Life



The I International Colloquium “Gesture and Belief”: Routes, Transfers and Intermediality is organised by the Transdisciplinary “Culture, Space and Memory” Research Centre (CITCEM) of the University of Porto. It will take place in March. The program is available here. Here is the accepted abstract of my paper, “Unusual Life: Loving Gestures and Sacredness in Ida (2013)”:

The Polish film Ida (2013) tells the story of a novice called Ida (Agata Trzebuchowska) in 1962. The community’s Mother Superior tells her to meet her only living relative, an aunt who she has never seen, before she takes her vows. Consequently, she leaves the monastic setting for the first time in her life. This paper analyzes the portrayal of her gestures inside and outside the convent. In monastic life, gestures are sparse and ritualized. They mold daily activities into habits. In secular life, gestures carry social meaning. Ida has not learned the conventions of human interaction shared by the people she meets. The film contrasts the two lives when she is travelling the country, learning about her family history, and having a relationship with a young musician. When she asks the man how their future together would be, he simply answers: “The usual. Life.” In contrast, her tentative life is most unusual and it has the power to reveal the world as an unknown place. Her gestures become ways of experiencing (and searching for) some conviction about the intertwinement between love and the sacred in her existence.