Cold War

2018, Poland/France/UK

Director: Pawil Pawlikowski

Starring: Joanna Kulig, Tomasz Kot

Words: Josh Senior

Pawel Pawlikowski returns to cinema for the first time in five years following on from the Oscar winning Ida, another film shot in his trademark gorgeous monochrome. In Cold War he turns his eye on Post-WWII Europe to tell a story of obsessive and destructive love.

We follow Zula and Winter (Kulig and Kot) who meet during their period of service in the Soviet Media machine, producing traditional works of Polish folk music to be toured around the USSR for the eyes of politicians and moguls alike. Zula joins the company as a dancer and Wiktor is a composer, they quickly fall into a passionate love affair. However, when Wiktor deserts for the safety of Western Europe, Zula remains behind in Poland and the two begin a fifteen year long-distance relationship only crossing paths a handful of times, sometimes in happiness and other times in tragedy. They rarely spend more than a few years together at a time before either their conflicting goals in life, or the Cold War itself drives a wedge between them.

Pawlikowski presents the film as a collection of snapshots, only giving us detail when the couple are together, and leaves us to fill in the details of their time apart with our own imaginations. The result being that we fly through the short run time, wrapped up in the intense but ultimately futile attempt by both Zula and Wiktor to live in happiness. They are often forced to live apart for long periods of time and the trauma they endure in these periods looms large over them when they do eventually find each other again.

The film draws its power from its basis in reality, the main characters being based upon the directors own parents, their traits and flaws feel very real and genuinely authentic, down to their mannerisms and the way in which they deal with the hardships of life.  The resultant combination of the sumptuous cinematography and flawless character study culminates in yet another iconic and unforgettable moment in Pawlikowski’s career, a truly stunning work, and a film which will surely run close at the Oscars in 2019.