Filming entirely in black and white accentuates the dark nature of this doomed relationship in Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski's film.
"Cold War" is a stark and passionate story of two star-crossed lovers besieged by politics. Over the course of twenty years they struggle to be with one another but cannot overcome the obstacles that keep them apart.
In 1949, pianist-conductor Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) is searching for local talent in postwar Poland to form a group of traveling singers and dancers. In doing so, he becomes smitten with by a young, beautiful woman named Zula (Joanna Kulig) who auditions and is hired. Word is out that she has a checkered past. When asked why she's on probation, matter of factly Zula replies that her father mistook her for her mother and a knife "showed him the difference." Hmm.
The revelation doesn't faze Wiktor in the least and they embark upon a torrid affair. On tour with the troupe in Warsaw, Wiktor is approached by a racist party official who insists that Witkor's performers be more politically correct in presenting their art. Refusing is not an option. While in East Berlin, Zula and Witkor have the opportunity to defect but she never shows up at the designated rendezvous. But they manage to hook up down the line in various locales including Paris, Yugoslavia and eventually, back in Poland. While there, Witkor is taken prisoner for having defected. Twists of fate ensue and the lovers are doomed.
Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski ("Ida") has created a visual masterpiece in making "Cold War." Filming entirely in black and white accentuates the dark nature of Witkor's and Zula's relationship and where it's headed. While searingly bright landscapes showcase the lover's blissful moments, brilliant in contrast. The scoring is as outstanding as are the performances put forth by Kulig and Kot. In one particularly stunning scene, Kulig dances wildly to Bill Haley & His Comet's "Rock Around the Clock" in a bar. It's absolutely intoxicating to witness.
"Cold War" is nominated for three Academy Awards this year — Best Director, Best Foreign Language Film and Best Cinematography. Pawlikowski has already been awarded for Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival for this sumptuous piece of filmmaking. Catch it while you can in a movie theater where it is meant to be seen. You will not be disappointed.