Short films often showcase the technical mastery of their directors. There is never enough time for performers or screenwriters to make an impact, but as a director, you can lay claim to everything. “Ida” takes a drastically different approach; this is an avenue for both its performers and screenwriting while technically being simple.
What writer-director Parminder Singh lacks in technical flair he more than makes up for with a blunt yet moving script.
We follow title character Ida (Kerstin Jannerup Gjesing) a 10-year-old girl who opens the film by repeating the line “the monster isn’t real”. She is quickly comforted by her mother, Leonora (Molly Blixt Egelind), who reminds her monsters aren’t real. Everything appears normal until Ida displays strange behaviour at school.
She is struggling to spell the words presented to her in class. She gets stuck on one and begins to obsess about getting it right, erasing her wrong answers over and over. Once her teacher notices he inquires if everything okay, and all Ida has to say for herself is “I made a mistake”.
From here it’s clear something isn’t right about the seemingly normal household presented to us at the beginning. However, once again, Leonora arrives, as we cut to the end of the school day, to make everything okay again. The music becomes calming and she promises they’ll bake together when they get home. Soon after though Leonora gets distressed after Ida doesn’t like a present she bought her. She rapidly begins to pour glass after glass of wine and morphs into the monster of Ida’s nightmares.
When I was first confronted with this revelation, I was unimpressed with how literal the representation of the monster was. Egelind appears on screen as a veiny purple creature who stars hungrily at Ida demanding affection and laying blame; I thought it was far too blunt. It was the performance of Gjesing that changed my mind.
She seems so frightened and ridged as the monster comes out, she runs as far as she can, to her bedroom, and just lies there hoping for the monster to go away and tragically accepting the vile statement her mother throws at her, “It’s your fault I drink”.
In her mind, it’s her “mistakes” that bring the monster out, not the alcohol. Ida stares at the roof lying on her bed sharing her thoughts with us as the film ends, she proclaims she will become an angle, so the monster need never come out again because angles don’t make mistakes. The sequence is so moving the film as a whole becomes a success.
The downbeat ending serves to highlight the sobering fact that children will always struggle to get out of abusive situations with their parents, because they don’t even know they are being abused.
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