Director: Pawel Pawlikowska
Writers: Pawel Pawlikowska, Janusz Glowacki
Starring: Joanna Kulig, Tomasz Kot, Borys Szyc
Genre: Drama / World Cinema
Set against the backdrop of the cold war in the 1950s, a musician and composer Wiktor (Kot) and talented singer Zula (Kulig) from different backgrounds fall in love, but their differing ideals and the politics of the time make it an impossible and inevitably doomed romance.
There are many ways a film can be epic, and the most obvious feature perhaps is its length, but also a film can be epic in scale, scope and theme. Polish auteur Pawel Pawlikowski’s latest masterpiece may only be under 90 minutes long but is as epic in scale as it is intimate in its narrative and visuals. Cold War, like its title suggests manages to capture a lot of the political struggles of its setting, while being a beautifully moving and intimate story of two people that fall deeply in love, but because of politics, geography and their differing personalities can never be truly together.
It is a true showcase of Pawlikowska’s incredible talent as a filmmaker that he can make a film that encapsulates so many narrative themes so effectively in under 90 minutes; the narrative takes place over the course of around 15 years and takes place in various European locations, depcting with skill and precision the political ideologies of east and west and how this plays a significant role in the seemingly inevitably doomed but deeply passionate love that these two people share and how this often threatens to destroy one or both of them. He deserts Poland and moves to Paris to be around fellow creatives, while she stays in Poland and becomes part of a singing group whose songs are specially chosen to praise Stalin.
Pawlikowska, just like in Ida, uses extended takes and shoots the entire film in a narrow ratio and beautiful monochrome to make every single scene encapsulate so much; from the passionate glances the two doomed lovers give one-another, to the intense feeling of political paranoia and suffocation that is produced by the fact political officials are observing their every move. Every scene and every piece of dialogue is carefully chosen and never wasted, often containing plenty of subtext as there is always depth to every single action and piece of dialogue – including why Zula is chosen to sing, and the how the manager of the company tries to change her and decides what she should sing and how. I am sure for those that know more about the subject matter than me there is even more to offer in this film, while repeat viewings will undoubtedly yield greater rewards.
Every single scene is filled with an infectious atmosphere of foreboding and melancholy, and the use of music is also deeply effective, with the glances the two share while Zula is singing in stage in further enhancing the pure romantic feeling of the film. It is such an impressive feat to make a film so short in length that can encapsulate so much, but Pawlikowska has certainly come a long was since making a film set in my home town (in which my beloved home town of Margate is a concentration camp for immigrants – Last Resort is also a great film by the way!) and Cold War is very much a contender for the best film of 2018.
An unforgettable film that is first and foremost a passionate and moving love story, but within its narrative Cold War contains humongous depth and substance about a time and a place that affected millions of people, it is an unforgettable cinematic experience and the showcase of a true auteur at the peak of his powers.