January 7, 2019

VIFF 2018 | Paweł Pawlikowski Romances the 'Cold War'

Joanna Kulig Paweł Pawlikowski | Cold War | VIFF 2018

VIFF 2018—Polish filmmaker Paweł Pawlikowski dramatizes history framing his latest film Cold War (aka Zimna wojna) as a tumultuous post-war love story set across fifteen years in the lives of the intensely volatile romantic and political turmoil of its messy characters. Inspired by his parents' actual personal lives, the picture is such a smouldering, white-hot historical character romance of icy passion.

Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot star as troubled lovers Zula and Wiktor, a dancer/singer and music conductor, who cannot seem to exist in the same place together yet are endlessly drawn together when torn apart. Kulig is astounding with such a fiery depth of emotion as she struggles against both the Soviet oppression of '50s Warsaw and the bourgeois class struggle of '60s Paris. Each are constantly trying to escape something, whether each other, their own past personal histories, or themselves entirely.

Shot by Ida cinematographer Lukasz Zal, Cold War's luminously crisp black-and-white imagery keeps the 1949-64 setting oppressive yet visually lush no matter where in Europe the pair happen to end up. Likewise, the boxy 4:3 Academy ratio frames the classically composed love story through its effortlessly sexy characters, purposely shot sequences, lively Polish folk song performances, and keenly choreographed dance performances.

Joanna Kulig Tomasz Kot Paweł Pawlikowski | Cold War | VIFF 2018

Clocking at a lean eighty-nine minutes, Cold War skips through long stretches of the pair's estrangement picking up during highlights of their decades-long flirtation with a full-blown romance. There's little explanation to the feel as scenes of falling in love or any real clear expressions are omitted to instead dramatize key points of their moments together in an often haphazard or dizzying fashion. This style of narrative evokes our own sense of muddled memories reminiscing about past lives and loves through tumultuous highs and lows.

Pawlikowski's film is a visually stunning affair with an intriguing yet elliptically detached love story framing European history through the struggle around the Iron Curtain. Cold War makes it unclear whether these broken characters were damaged by war or the violence around them or simply by their own personal turmoil. It's a searing portrait of pure attraction presented with plenty of caution in its historical context. It's a strangely beautiful film of love by omission.

Cold War screened at the 2018 Vancouver International Film Festival as part of the Panorama stream. It opens in Vancouver on January 25th.


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