Friday, December 21, 2018

Movie with Abe: Cold War

Cold War
Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski
Released December 21, 2018

Love stories are timeless, but they aren’t always easy. Some couples have the fortune of meeting under the best of circumstances and seeing their relationship develop into a long narrative full of happy moments and a large family. Accidents, natural disasters, social barriers, and political conflicts can keep two people destined to be together apart either temporarily or permanently, cutting short a tale that should continue much longer than it does. In such instances, people may choose to move on with their lives, opting for a different path, but in some cases, those in love and unable to see it realized will continue to pine for a better future as long as they live.

Zula (Joanna Kulig) immediately catches the eye of musical director Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) when she auditions for his troupe. A passionate love affair soon begins, but Wiktor fears they can never be together under the Communist regime and plots an escape to the West. When Zula fails to show up, Wiktor finds himself starting over in a new place, thriving artistically but pining eternally for the woman he cannot stop thinking about and continues to try to reunite with throughout tumultuous times of unsteady peace.

Like director Pawel Pawlikowski’s previous film, the Oscar-winning “Ida,” this film features black-and-white cinematography from Lukasz Zal, which makes the lengthy and troubled relationship between Zula and Wiktor feel all the more painful and stark. Much of their romance is based in a musical setting, and it’s definitely possible to understand how Wiktor becomes enchanted by Zula, who is frequently framed within his gaze as she performs for a new audience with all eyes and ears on her. The way the two look at each other stands out greatly from the somber backdrop that against which their love exists.

Kulig channels such contemplative energy into every look that Zula gives, particularly each time she performs. Kot matches her with a laser-focused admiration that never has Wiktor taking his eyes off of Zula. More than anything else, this film wraps its audiences up in the spirit of the times and the cultural landscape of the moment, expressing its protagonists’ miserable fates through the confines of the time in which they meet and are prevented from living happily together. That experience is not always pleasant or urgent, but there is value and haunting power in the depiction of this forbidden romance.


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