'Cold War' Review: Dizzying romance and dazzling visuals, another magnificent film from the maker of Ida

A Potpourri of Vestiges Review

By Tanmay Shukla

Featured in IMDb Critic Reviews

Joanna Kulig in Cold War

Pawel convinces us of his sincerity from the very beginning by the authenticity of his setting to make a magnificent film made possible by his excellent direction. He uses minimal dialogues, dazzling visuals, solid acting and meticulous production to hold our attention as the film jumps through time in the narrative. It is funny in parts and flows through rapidly, floating on the rhythms of the music filling its atmosphere.

A team is sent across the country to unearth local singers and dancers who will perform their folk art as part of State propaganda. They call it “the music of pain and humiliation.” From there, Cold War explores themes of love, freedom and role of state. There is not much else to tell. It is a little undercooked in this department. Much of it is in the realm of mystery, forcing us to ponder and also allowing us to freely associate.

Joanna Kulig is exceptional as Zula. She is a village girl with an unforgiving past.She has served time for killing her father. She explains that his father mistook her for her mother so she used the knife in disgust. Zula is energetic and spirited. She is perceptive too. She is quick to sense Wiktor’s intentions. She boldly asks, “Are you interested in my talent or me?” during their early exchanges. Her talent makes her a successful singer but her condition leaves her yearning for the love of her life, Wiktor, no matter how far or how often she runs away from him. Wiktor is a talented composer. He falls in love with Zula and pursues the opportunities at work. He inspires Zula, “Everything here is for you. Believe in yourself.”

Cold War’s narrative tracks down the interactions Zula and Wiktor are having which are spread across more than a decade. East Berlin, 1952: Zula is thinking, staring at her reflection in the mirror. Paris, 1954: They have separated, residing in different cities. They aren’t happy. They love each other but they can’t be together. When Wiktor gets back home late, his wife asks where he was “whoring around?” He answers, “I don’t have money for whores. I was with the woman of my life.” Paris, 1957: He is making the soundtrack for a film. Zula is married to a Sicilian, her new name is Gangarossa. Their passion is still alive and they make love. They have moved in together. They are composing and writing music. Their connection is too romantic. “Come in here, I’m a bit sad,” says Zula.

When they start living together, their chinks become apparent. “In Poland you were a different man, you are different here,” she says. And “Michael fucked me six times a day. He wasn’t like a Polish artist in exile.” He slaps her. “Now we are talking.” She leaves for Poland next day.

Poland, 1959: Wiktor is imprisoned because he was caught crossing borders illegally. “I will wait for you,” says Zula. “Find out a normal guy who can put up with you,” he says. Poland, 1964: They finally marry.

The production of Cold War is not big, it’s beautiful. Every frame, every small detail of the costume, accessories, art and sets are designed and crafted to perfection. Pawel’s film has enough substance to engage for its length and on top of that it’s visually vividand captivating. The soundtrack is exquisite and rich. It starts with the folk and then includes classical and jazz music as well. It builds the required mood to communicate the feelings of the central two characters.

Like Pawel Pawlikowski’s last film Ida, which won the Oscar for best foreign language film, Cold War too is leaving an impression as much for its visual brilliance as for its cinematic genius. Here, Pawel again chooses to shoot in monochrome and 4:3 aspect ratio. Not only does it givea distinct look to his films, he uses it to perfection and his compositions are simply memorable.Cold War has soft natural lighting which aids when looking intently at the screen, trying to absorb all the details of the period and appreciate the marvellous compositions by cinematographer Lucasz Zal. The tracking shots are just as gorgeous. It’s as stylish and glamorous as it can be.

Zula and Wiktor are sitting together staring at the rural landscape stretching in front of them. “Let’s go to the other side. The view will be better,” says Zula. The ending is melancholic and wistful. They are together, they are where they want to be and they are hopeful. This is one such film that keeps running in your head long after it’s over.

Cold War - Official Trailer

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