There’s so much to love about Cold War. From its sterling visual style, its classic tale of cross-border romance, its terrific pacing and ambitious scope, this is easily one of the great films of the year.
With a tale that spans the duration of the East-West conflict, we get to witness the perfect matchup of how personal relations reflect the larger political forces that resulted in decades of hostility between the sides of the conflict. The title refers not only to the geopolitical circumstances but the dynamic between lovers as well, resulting in a work that manages to be equally intimate and large in scale.
Tracing the relationship between a charismatic singer/dancer Zula (Joanna Kulig) and her concert master Wiktor (Tomasz Kot), we witness the various negotiations and interactions over decades, with the push/pull resulting in decisions rarely rational but always fuelled by passions that vacillate between heartfelt and abusive.
Captured in monochrome, the black-and-white palate is the perfect visual metaphor for the lives of shadow and light that they carve out for themselves. Pawel Pawlikowski’s direction never veers to the maudlin, consistently remaining fixed on the near-documentary capturing of emotions while a more refined, painterly composition frames the image. Combined it’s a collision of something highly believable yet heightened to poetic levels – talk of “metaphor” is integral to the storyline – resulting in a work that both moves and appeals on more cerebral levels.
Cold War is terrific, a frigid slice of romance told beautifully. As allegory for the modern Poland it’s bitingly effective, as a examination of the ambivalence of love it’s harrowing, as a whole it’s simply a film not to be missed.