Fresh from sweeping the floor at the European Film Awards taking home five awards is Cold War: a sobering examination of love in all its forms – revenge, hate, jealousy, betrayal and obsession. It’s not all melancholy: what accompanies it is an exceptional soundtrack – from angelic sounds of Polish folk to choral to French club jazz.
The music is where the story begins. In post-war Poland, musicians Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) and Irena (Agata Kulesza) travel Warsaw recording folk sounds and music. They are approached to form a musical ensemble to help resurrect the country’s morale after the horrors of war. One of the scores to audition is Zula (Joanna Kulig), a free-spirit who immediately attracts Wiktor and while on tour, they begin a passionate affair.
While performing in Berlin, the pair plot an escape to the West – both intending this to the answer to an overhanging sadness and desolation. The plan sours and each are stranded. Wiktor settles to his predicament, surging head first into the gypsy-love of the French jazz club scene, only to idolise his lover’s rise to solo recording artist from afar. They will meet again many times through circumstance but their future together is uncertain.
Director Pawel Pawlikowski dedicates Cold War to his own parents. The real Wiktor and Zula died in 1989, just before the Berlin Wall came down. They had spent the previous 40 years together, on and off, breaking up, chasing and punishing each other on both sides of the Iron Curtain.
Cold War is shot beautifully, naturally, and the black and white treatment seems an obvious choice but is ingenious. It pares the narrative back to such a basic level that colour would have only sugar-coated.
Cold War opens nationally on Boxing Day 2018 at Palace Cinemas.
About Cold War
Director: Pawel Pawlikowski
Story by and written by: Pawel Pawlikowski
Stars: Joanna Kulig, Tomasz Kot, Borys Szyc, Agata Kulesza