Cold War – A sweeping, yet oddly intimate love story

Winner of the Best Director award at last year’s Cannes Festival, Paweł Pawlikowski has created a sweeping, yet oddly intimate love story about two people brought together, and then torn apart, by circumstances way beyond their control, in a narrative that takes us from rural Poland to East Berlin, and then on to Paris and Yugoslavia.

Over 15 years, we see the shifting sands of politics, geography and music refracted through the love of affair of this mismatched couple. Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot are both excellent in the lead roles, but it is Kulig that the camera cannot keep away from. Her performance is compelling, as she shifts from abuse victim to sultry chanteuse, leaving more unspoken than is  revealed.

Filmed in crisp black and white, using an academy ratio, film classics such as Casablanca come to mind, albeit with a Euro sensibility. This is a film about film, as much as narrative, with folk music morphing into a jazz score, as the boxy 4:3 image mimics claustrophobic lives led in a strange world where bizarre stage shows, singing the praise of Stalin, rub shoulders with drunken dancing to Bill Haley’s ‘Rock Around the Clock’.

By David Vass