“Cold War”

Ultimately, The director Pawel Pawlikowski is a romantic who understands Poland. His  new film “Cold War” uses the metaphor of romantic, unrequited love to speak to the feelings Polish nationals may feel toward the emigre, who leaves. The film is dedicated to his Polish parents.

Pawlikowski uses the same award-winning cinematographer, the thirty-seven-year-old Lukasz Zal,~the same artist he collaborated with in his glorious “Ida” ( reviewed Feb. 15, 2015) . “ Cold War” is filmed even more beautifully.  Both works are in black and white. “Cold War” ‘s cinematography is  less gradient, bolder and in more contrast than the grayer “Ida”. Some frames outline glossy, dark bodies with intense light only inches in diameter. Auras outline more than illuminate. Cold and dark seep into our bones the same way the Cold War did.

Somehow, Europe’s decades seem to mesh together more than our American ones. Maybe this is because their historical past is longer, and they know better than to force ten years of delineated time into a topped jar. Then again, as the film’s poetress, Juliette, explains, “Time does not matter when you are in love.”

“ Cold War” ’s chronology takes us from 1949 to 1951, then to 1954, 1955, 1957, 1959, and back to 1952 and then to 1964 ~approximately 15 years from the start where we initially hear drinking songs and see snow keeping the ground frozen. Music , as well as time, threads its way through the tale. We begin with horrid rehearsals of bagpipes and folk songs fiddled. Discordant sweeps of voices and accordion squeezes open a structure of recitals to train and audition hopeful talent. Our male lead is the orchestra’s maestro and pianist and our emigre.

His name is Wiktor, and he is an amalgam of practicality, obsession, and existential angst, and narcissism.   Tomasz Kot plays Wiktor with raw emotion and patient waiting. His desire is for the gutsy and spirited survivor of incest with patricide heavy on her soul. Enter Zula. She is lovely, talented, and given a few years~smoldering.

Johanna Kulig is the Polish actress who embodies our Zula. Get ready for a visage as fresh as Jennifer Lawrence with the pillowy lips of Liv Ullmann. At first playful and gutsy, with memorable scenes of pond floating and folk dancing, she turns sultry and jealous, and then fatefully romantic~ remiscent of  Truffaut heroine in “ Adele H”.

Zula and Wiktor’s relationship is on again/off again . He writes lyrics,: she is his chanteuse. They record an album, and he dubs it “our first child”. She tosses it on the street and calls it “a bastard”. Zula marries an Italian, has a baby, does nightclub gigs. We zoom through major cities: Warsaw, Paris, Zagreb, Berlin. Wiktor seeks her out. ” Is My Baby Still My Baby?” is heard.

Wiktor is taunted by communist agents. ” You did not love Poland. You left her.” Bluesy Billy Holliday is in our ears. Zula finds Wiktor imprisoned in a containment camp where he is accused of being a spy. Lots happens in the film’s 88 minutes.

Ultimately, Zula both plans  their marriage, one that counts,  and their earthly demise. The rituals and images are incorporated :candles, the sign of the cross, images of Christ’s eyes. At one point Zula asks, “What have we done? Practical viewers will tell these lovers  that it did not have to be this way. Romantics will sigh, “ Oh, yes”.