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Truthfully, though Ida's small, flawed attempt at incarnation was all I could think about while watching the film, I doubt that doctrine is what Pawlikowski had in mind. But it puts me in mind of another Kieslowski film—Blue, in which Julie (Juliette Binoche) comes to realize that she can only love others and experience true liberty by coming alongside them and dwelling in their pain. She takes compassion on those who have hurt her, choosing to stop living life apart from them and start living with them.

The beauty of movies is that the good ones allow us to practice a little bit of flawed and limited incarnation, too. In films, as in good fiction, we get to live a little bit of someone else's reality. That requires being open to the experience, and it requires attention, something that's hard to come by in our world. But a film like Ida gives us a chance to walk alongside the characters for a while, trying to understand their world and their struggles, and it's a pleasure to do it when it's so beautiful.

Caveat Spectator

Wanda makes reference to "carnal pleasures" a few times, and when we first meet her, a man is dressing and leaving her flat. Later, two characters are naked in bed together, though we don't see anything in particular (a naked man does sit on the edge of the bed, but limbs cover all the pertinent bits). A woman bathes while clothed in a nightgown, which gets clingy and a little transparent briefly. There are a few profanities, but the film is in Polish, so we see them in the subtitles. There is a suicide. Characters drink and smoke. And there are references to the atrocities of the Holocaust, including violence toward children.

Alissa Wilkinson is Christianity Today's chief film critic and assistant professor of English and humanities at The King's College. She tweets @alissamarie.

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