Pawel Pawlikowski’s follow-up to his Oscar winning film Ida is another beautiful black-and-white film about postwar Poland. This time around he constructs a lush love story about two vastly different people whose love for one another is tested by the changing world around them.
Spanning a decade, and loosely based on the director’s own parents, Cold War revolves around a jazz pianist and composer, Wiktor (Tomasz Kot), who is tasked with auditioning local folk singers as part of a state-sponsored project to highlight the culture in rural Poland. Instantly taken by the strong-minded and talented Zula (Joanna Kulig), Wiktor and his young protégé quickly strike up a passionate romance. However, when Stalin’s communist rule becomes too much for Wiktor, the pair must struggle with their own demons and the choices they have made which will impact their relationship forever.
As the couple losses their freedom and agency living under the Iron Curtain, Pawlikowski displays his control of the episodic narrative by purposely leaving out key moments of pathos. The recurring themes of control and displacement, Wiktor is literally a man without a country at one point, is especially poignant when observing how the music in the film moves from traditional folk song to communist propaganda to a fusion of genres. In addition to the music and Pawlikowski’s keen visuals, Cold War resonates thanks to Joanna Kulig’s brilliant performance. Similar to Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence, Kulig has the uncanny ability to carry so much emotion in her face, effortlessly changing from one to another in a flash.
A heartbreakingly beautiful romance, Cold War is not to be missed.
Friday, September 14, 6 PM, Winter Garden Theatre
Sunday, September 16, 3 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox