Cold War (Zimna wojna)
Joanna Kulig, Tomasz Kot, Agata Kulesza
Pawel Pawlikowski, director of the Oscar-winning Ida, returns with the exquisite Cold War. A tumultuous love story between two people of different backgrounds and temperaments – who despite their overwhelming passion for each other, are fatefully mismatched – it won him Best Director at Cannes in May and has received ecstatic reviews.
Loosely inspired by Pawlikowski’s parents (to whom the film is also dedicated) it’s set against the oppressive background of the Cold War and across Poland, Berlin, Yugoslavia and Paris; following singer Zula (an effortlessly magnetic and beguiling performance by Joanna Kulig) and pianist Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) from their initial meeting at an audition over the course of the ensuing 15 years.
Endlessly drawn to each other, they are unable to co-exist but their inability to move on from one another is cyclical, stuck on a painful and exhausting loop. The film’s very structure – particularly through use of narrative ellipses – serves to compound and solidify their unbreakable bond as Zula rises to fame, as they perform across Eastern Europe (the film includes some brilliantly choreographed musical set-pieces) and realise that they must find a way to slip past the Iron Curtain, and soon.
It’s a moving, searching and highly personal film from Pawlikowski, who grew up in exile from Poland’s Communist rule and lived in the UK and Paris until the period in which he made Ida, which saw him move back to Poland and change cinematic focus entirely. It feels in many ways as though he is building further upon the artistic success of that film, with silvery monochrome cinematography by Ida cinematographer Łukasz Żal, and a continued commitment to explore both the dark heart of Poland and how its 20th century political wounds and unrest echoed through the emotional lives of its subjects. A triumph.