Film Review: Cold War

Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War is an engaging and beautifully filmed drama. The protagonists may be flawed, but the presentation certainly is not. 

Wiktor and Zulu first meet in 1950s Poland. They are drawn to one another, despite their different temperaments. Their love is tested by politics, personalities, and twists of fate…

Director and co-writer Pawel Pawlikowski sets a fraught love story against the backdrop of political upheaval in post-war Europe. Cold War shows the impact of this political climate on ordinary people. The story is engaging, with a love affair that frustrates and delights.

The two protagonists in the film are flawed, multi-dimensional characters. At times the actions of Zula and Wiktor are frustrating. Yet they elicit sympathy, being regular people having their lives impacted so by the era they inhabit. What is most striking about the pair is that they are mismatched. Rather than playing this in an ‘opposites attract’ fashion, Pawlikowski increasingly makes it apparent that they are not suited in the long term. 

Beautifully shot in black and white, Cold War looks every inch its period setting. Despite the city environments, it always feels like the period it is set in – art direction is wonderful here. The scenes in the Parisian club feel like they were filmed in the 1950s. These sequences provide a good contrast with scenes in Poland and Yugoslavia. The vibrancy is juxtaposed with rather drab surroundings. Moreover, these contrasts in locations provide a mirror to the characters themselves as they become less and less of a match.

Joanna Kulig is wonderful as Zula. She offers a fine portrayal of the character as she grows. Tomasz Kot is also great as Wiktor. The pair have good chemistry, and are wholly believable.  Music is critical to the film, heightening the era and the locales.

Cold War is melancholy yet beautiful. A visual delight, with great storytelling to match.

Cold War is released in cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema from 31st August 2018.