Current Issue #476

Film Review: Cold War

Film Review: Cold War

Pawel Pawlikowski’s almost achingly emotional, multilingual follow-up to his Oscar-winning Ida is far more ambitious and epic.

Like Ida, it is shot in beautiful black and white and in a 1.37:1 aspect ratio to invoke a classic, old-school atmosphere, which is drawn (to a point) from the turbulent relationship of the Poland-born, UK-residing Pawlikowski’s parents, as contrasted against the post- World War II history of a shattered and shell-shocked Europe.

It’s 1949, and, after an opening sequence that captures traditional Lemko folk tunes, we meet Wiktor (Tomasz Kot), a respected musician running a Polish music school commissioned by the Soviet state to help stoke national pride in a time of healing. When an influx of students brings the troubled Zula (Joanna Kulig in a star-making turn) to an audition, they fall secretly in love and commence a dangerous romance. When they try and escape during a tour of Berlin, things painfully don’t go as planned.

Years pass, and we move from Warsaw and Yugoslavia to the arty, almost-Beatnik realms of Paris where Wiktor composes music for a genuine-looking Italian horror movie, but the pair’s strong, slightly toxic feelings keep them bumping into each other, even when they’re on different sides of the Iron Curtain. And, despite the Cold War of the time and the title, their intense love virtually melts the screen.

Full to bursting with music and dance (but not a musical), from the ‘primitive’ ditties of old rural Poland to the raw excitement of Rock Around the Clock, Pawlikowski’s latest is particularly memorable for its sweeping scope, some heady sensuality and the performances of the broodingly handsome Kot and Kulig, who could use this as a calling-card to hit Hollywood, if she fancies stooping that low.

Cold War (M) is in cinemas from Boxing Day

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