Cold War (2018)

cold war poster 2018 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 10/10

Great looking visuals


Movie Info

Movie Name: Cold War

Studio: Opus Film

Genre(s): Drama/Romance

Release Date(s):  May 10, 2018 (Cannes)/June 8, 2018 (Poland)/December 21, 2018 (US)

MPAA Rating: R

cold war zula joanna kulig

The Hills are Alive…with the sound of Mazurek!

In 1949, Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) and Irena (Agata Kulesza) form a dance-singing troupe to celebrate the traditional music of Poland and the countryside.  When Mazurek forms to rave reviews, the group quickly becomes a success but also is transformed into a propaganda piece for Soviet ideals.  Wiktor discouraged by the change in formats decides to defect with his girlfriend and performer Zula (Joanna Kulig)…but Zula chooses to remain behind.  Trapped on opposite sides of the Iron Curtain, Wiktor seeks to be reunited with Zula and Zula wishes to be with Wiktor…but the world conflict has created an impassible wall that could forever divide them.

Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski, Cold War (Zimna wojna) is a Polish period movie.  The film premiered at Cannes and was optioned by Amazon.  The film made the festival tours and received a limited theater release.  It was nominated for Best Director, Best Foreign Film, and Best Cinematography.  The Criterion Collection released a version of the film (Criterion #1005).

I was really impressed by Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida which was released in 2013.  Like Bergman’s work, the film had a black-and-white crispness to it and the smaller aspect ratio created a different feel for the movie.  Pawlikowski returns to Ida’s format and appearance to tell another story of lost love and sadness.

cold war zula wiktor joanna kulig tomasz kot

Movies need more frolicking in fields…

In the United States, there wasn’t much thought to the divisiveness of the Cold War.  Communist Bloc countries were bad.  The United States was threatened by nuclear war but separated from invasion and the day-to-day life of a giant divide through the middle of a continent.  Cold War explores this divide and how patriotism clashes with the government.  Neither character is “at home” in their land, but they each favor one side or the other.  The result is that their love is strong, but they can’t necessarily conquer the barrier erected between them.  They instead decide to “opt out”…but even then they can’t be happy with where they are.  It is a little obvious and kind of hits you over the head, but it feels real for the most part.

Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot are good as the “Romeo & Juliette” of the film.  Kulig’s character sides with the Communists though she doesn’t like them and Kot decides to become an ex-pat in Paris where he fits in nowhere.  While both their lives seem good on the surface, they manage to emote that they are both miserable without each other inside.  I also like the small role Borys Szyc as the Soviet loyalist that pushes the group to become politicized for their own benefit (something which flies in the face of the ideas of Communism as a whole).

cold war tomaz kot joanna kulig

It’s been a rough ride…

What blows you away about Cold War is the visuals.  The black-and-white gives a richness to the movie and helps anchor it as a period piece though the themes are universal.  The aspect ratio of the screen often leaves Pawlikowski with a lot of intentional negative space at the top which gives it a unique look.  The movie resembles in a lot of ways the black-and-white works of someone like Ingmar Bergman…and Pawlikowski manages to achieve what people often attempt to mimic when making “old style” films.

Cold War is short and sweet.  The story doesn’t have a lot of meat to it and the themes are easy so it doesn’t need to be long.  It really revels in the visuals and the style of the directing.  I look forward to seeing more form Pawlikowski, and I’m impressed thus far.  While I like Cold War and Ida, I hope Pawlikowski continues to experiment a bit and doesn’t pigeonhole himself into the format (though I will always welcome him revisiting it).

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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