Review: Cold War

Winner of Best Director at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Pawel Pawlikowski’s latest is a glorious love story that follows Zula (Joanna Kulig) and Wiktor (Thomasz Kot), who begin a passionate relationship during the 1950’s Cold War in Poland. Due to politics, mistakes and unforseen circumstances, they are separated and reunited many times. It’s an impossible love story set during an impossible time that takes us all over Europe with a score and cinematography to die for.

We may all watch the same film, but the journey can be interpretated in many ways.

From the moment the film opens on a group of farmers playing instruments, we are treated to an onslaught of different musical arrangments that eventually lead us to Zula being hand picked by Wiktor for a musical trope. After the first big performance, the two begin their complicated relationship. What starts out as a passionate secret soon blossoms into much more. Cold War is remeniscent of French New Wave cinema from the late 1950s, tackling a politically charged social issue and presenting it subjectivly. As we travel through the years, many moments are skipped over or only slightly addressed, leaving the audience to do a lot of the work. Too many films love describing the plot in great detail nowadays, so it’s a welcome change to have a film make you do a lot of thinking. Even better is many moments will mean different things to everyone. We may all watch the same film, but the journey can be interpretated in many ways.

…it’s a welcome change to have a film make you do a lot of thinking.

While the romance is the central theme of Cold War, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better use of music all year. When you think of Traditional Polish Folk music, you’d probbaly roll you eyes, but the sheer scope of the sound alone is enough to grab your attention. The compositions are captivating and each uniquely enthalling in their own way. As the setting changes, so does the music. We get a jazz number which wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Damien Chazzelle film all the way to a classical score in the background. Now, I’m no fan of classical music, but I found myself looking forward to every new sound the film threw at us. Each one is suited the scene at hand perfectly but it’s not just the wonderful score that captivates and wows us, it’s the tremendous choreography that accompanies it. The shows put on throughout never fail to dazzle and amaze you, even if you’re seeing the same moves a few times. What impressed me the most however was a breathtaking tracking shot on the dancefloor of a club. It managed to capture the energy and free spirited nature of Zula effortlessly, highlighting her strength whilst also demonstrating how easily she can be worn down by those around her.

The compositions are captivating and each uniquely enthalling in their own way.

Cold War has become something of a critical darling and while I agree it has many brilliant moments, it’s not the masterpiece it’s been hyped up to be. Don’t let this put you off it however, it’s still one of the most beautifully shot films to be released all year and has two spellbindingly amazing central perfromances. Because of this, you get one of the strongest romances displayed on screen this year, showcasing a much more realistic and accurate depiction of how love cannot be beaten, even by time.

8/10

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