When we colloquially use the term “photogenic,” we sometimes mistake it to refer to things that are conventionally attractive: a pretty vase, a breathtaking landscape, a supermodel. But photogenic is a quality that simply attracts the eye when captured – objects, events, and people that seem befitted to the strengths of photography, or things that, when framed a particular way, draw the eye in. Sure, Brad Pitt is photogenic, but so is Boris Karloff. Photogenic is not a term of evaluation, but a term of function: an ancient cavern can be photogenic, as can a bloody war zone. Thus, the fact that cinema can and has long depicted tragedy, horror and detritus in ways that are evocative and even beautiful has never been a paradox. Cinema uses the tools of what Jean Epstein referred to as “photogenie” to take viewers into a perspectival space, where they are asked to look at and examine people and events in ways they might not be drawn to in other contexts. The photogenic draw has rarely blocked the potential meaning or depth of the thing photographed. Yet while watching Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida, I found myself experiencing something I don’t think I have before. I was drawn in by the incredible beauty of Ida‘s photography to the point of alienation from the complex story through which such images unfolded in front of me.