CANNES FESTIVAL, “Cold War” (“Zimna Wojna”)

Last Updated: May 14, 2018By Tags: , , ,

Poles wear austere, puritanical expressions on their face. And it’s as if filmmaker Pawel Pawlikowski drew on this to style his new film, “Cold war” (“Zimna Wojna”). Every shot is precisely-timed and framed carefully, scenes glisten like a Doisneau photo gallery. There isn’t a single element astray. Pawlikowski shot “Cold War” in black and white, which adds beauty, and gravitas. Zula (Joanna Kulig) tries for a spot on a local choir and catches the ear, but especially, the eye, of choir director, and pianist, Wiktor (Tomasz Kot). Her voice is otherworldly, her blonde mane angelic, but Zula is all melancholia, brief flashes of anger lighting up her face. Who isn’t without demons? During one of their early rehearsal sessions, Wiktor asks, “is it true that you murdered your father?” She replies, “he confused me with my mother, my knife showed him the difference. He’ll live.” Pawlikowski used his parents’ real first names in naming his characters.

Not much is known about Wiktor. He plays classical piano to accompany the choir but, later, after he defects to Paris, he joins a jazz band and looks just as comfortable in that smoky, lounge environment as he did in the rarefied rehearsal room in a school in Poland’s provinces. He’s tall and handsome and probably a little arrogant. I couldn’t help but wonder whether Pawlikowski did not create him in his image.

Did you know? Tomasz Kot studied the piano for one year in preparation for his role.

“Cold War” is an intense and serious story about an impossible love that travels, inside, and outside, the iron curtain. As the choir goes to Berlin, Prague and Yugoslavia, Zula and Wiktor‘s affair grows more intense and intrigue sets in. This film is like a meditation on impossible love and how we are sometimes buffeted by outside events (during the Cold War, anyone in your midst could turn informer, the filmmaker exploiting this to add tension to his film).

A very enjoyable watch (5 stars).