Cold War

Dec 20, 2018

The lovers represent the conflicted heart of Cold War Poland in this expertly-drawn, beautifully photographed drama.

Cold War

Grade: A

Director: Pawel Pawlikowski (Ida)

Screenplay: Pawlikowski, Janusz Klowacki

Cast: Joanna Kulig, (The Innocents), Tomasz Kot (Bikini Blue)

Rating: R

Runtime: 1 hr 28 min

By: John DeSando

“He mistook me for my mother and a knife showed him the difference.” Zula (Jaonna Kulig)

The heroine’s tough words express the need for defiance in Cold War Poland. Cold War is a powerful film of dark and light, a love story set in Soviet dominated Poland, post WWII, that evokes the disjointed and desperate Poles trying to preserve their folk culture.  Ironically, the Soviets watch over the songs that adjust to Soviet tastes and are obedient to its direction.

In other words, the central love affair between very young Zula (Joanna Kulig) and older Wiktor Tomasz Kot) is punctuated by dislocation to Paris, return to Poland, and eventual tragedy.

Despite the disorienting nature of one country taken by another, the music, authentic or not, captures the Polish rural roots while it looks to tomorrow with rock ‘n roll. The lovers are torn between the motherland and modernity, doomed to physically and figuratively wander to find a home and an enduring love.

The beauty of writer/director Pawel Pawlikowski’s romantic drama is the couple’s attempt to keep connected, for they are passionately in love. Along the way their music (she sings, he plays and conducts) and Poland’s make a flawed attempt at preserving traditions and their loves. The crisp black and white is a perfect vehicle to exemplify the ambiguity of the political situation and the stark reality of the lovers’ struggle to vanquish the forces aligned against their fulfillment.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at