A love brought together by music and maintained by personal struggle, Pawel Pawlikowski's Cold War is a multi-country-spanning fictional romance set against a historical backdrop.
Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot play the two lovers of Poland who are brought together by fate: he's a music conductor looking for a specific rural sound of the less fortunate people, and she possesses a timeless voice and beauty that's both mysterious and enveloping. The romance continues, off-and-on, for several years, even as their fate changes, popularity rises, and power shifts. Like the best tales of romance (Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise immediately jumps to mind), Cold War is about a love dictated by circumstance.
Sonic and lively, adoring and longing, Cold War is a brisk hour-and-a-half journey through a memory, although who that memory belongs to is up for debate. Given the film's angelic finale, it could be that of its main characters or, given the dedication to the director's parents by film's conclusion, that of Pawlikowski himself.
Shot by 2019 Academy Award nominee Lucasz Zal, the film is presented in what is typically considered the Academy Aspect Ratio, that is, the boxy 1:33:1. Tall and slender, Zal's black-and-white imagery is piercing in its clarity and exploration of negative space.
Opening the film in the center of a group of countryside people singing (or are they ultimately auditioning?) for the camera, Zal's work goes on to expertly showcase shadows in the wings of a theater, mirror reflections of lovers at a mundane party, close-ups of sexual intimacy, an alluring, drunken dance of intoxicating splendor, and much more. His powerful work inside a war-torn church is ultimately both familiar and somber, exactly as it should be.
As the film continues to play in theaters, its distributor, Amazon Studios, has released a featurette that explores Zal's work in greater detail. Check it out below.
Have you seen Cold War yet? Let us know what you thought in the comments below.