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Saltasis karas (2018) Online

Saltasis karas (2018) Online
Original Title :
Zimna wojna
Genre :
Movie / Drama / Music / Romance
Year :
Directror :
Pawel Pawlikowski
Cast :
Joanna Kulig,Tomasz Kot,Borys Szyc
Writer :
Pawel Pawlikowski,Pawel Pawlikowski
Budget :
Type :
Time :
1h 29min
Rating :

In the 1950s, a music director falls in love with a singer and tries to persuade her to flee communist Poland for France.

Saltasis karas (2018) Online

A passionate love story between two people of different backgrounds and temperaments, who are fatefully mismatched and yet condemned to each other. Set against the background of the Cold War in the 1950s in Poland, Berlin, Yugoslavia and Paris, the film depicts an impossible love story in impossible times.
Cast overview, first billed only:
Joanna Kulig Joanna Kulig - Zula
Tomasz Kot Tomasz Kot - Wiktor
Borys Szyc Borys Szyc - Kaczmarek
Agata Kulesza Agata Kulesza - Irena
Cédric Kahn Cédric Kahn - Michel
Jeanne Balibar Jeanne Balibar - Juliette
Adam Woronowicz Adam Woronowicz - Consul
Adam Ferency Adam Ferency - Minister
Drazen Sivak Drazen Sivak - Sleuth 1
Slavko Sobin Slavko Sobin - Sleuth 2
Aloïse Sauvage Aloïse Sauvage - Waitress
Adam Szyszkowski Adam Szyszkowski - Guard
Anna Zagórska Anna Zagórska - Ania
Tomasz Markiewicz Tomasz Markiewicz - Leader of ZMP
Izabela Andrzejak Izabela Andrzejak - Mazurek

The turbulent relationship between the main characters was inspired by the director's real-life parents, who did break up and get together a couple of times as well as moved from one country to another.

Cold War is dedicated to Pawel Pawlikowski's parents, whose names the protagonists share.

The first Polish-language movie since 1990 to be shown in the Cannes Film Festival competition. Although there were entries from Polish directors Krzysztof Kieslowski and Roman Polanski during that time, they were made in French and English as co-productions.

The main characters were loosely based on the real-life creators of the world-renowned Polish folk dance group Zespól Piesni i Tanca Mazowsze (in the movie Mazowsze has been changed into Mazurek), Tadeusz Sygietynski and Mira Ziminska. They were married and after the war toured the countryside in search of talented young folk singers and dancers. They also composed the song "Dwa serduszka, cztery oczy", which is the leitmotiv of the movie.

Received a standing ovation of 18 minutes at the Cannes Film Festival.

Once he had his characters in mind, Pawel Pawlikowski looked for a way to bring them together and the music became essential to the film. He chose the folk ensemble Mazowsze, a troupe founded after the war and still active. This institution could illustrate what was happening in Polish society at the time, without having to explain it.

Lead actress Joanna Kulig also played the role of a singer in Pawel Pawlikowski's previous film Ida (2013).

Pawlikowski originally meant to make Cold War in color.

The only film of the year to be nominated for the Best Director Oscar and not be one of the Best Picture nominated lineup.

Director Pawel Pawlikowski and actress Joanna Kulig worked on the character of Zula with Lauren Bacall in mind, especially for the screen legend's sarcastic delivery of dialogue.

Official submission of Poland for the 'Best Foreign Language Film' category of the 91st Academy Awards in 2019.

All of the jazz numbers in the film were arranged - and the piano parts performed - by Marcin Masecki.

It competed for the Palme d'Or at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival. Pawlikowski won the award for Best Director. It also received the Golden Lions Award at the 43rd Gdynia Film Festival. It was selected as the Polish entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 91st Academy Awards.

When Wiktor is shown working on a film score in Paris, the film depicted is an Italian production from 1957 called I vampiri (1957).

Joanna Kulig had worked for Pawlikowski before, in his two movies: Ida (2013) and La femme du Vème (2011). Agata Kulesza was also in 'Ida'.

One of three foreign language films to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography in the same year, the other two being Roma (2018) and Werk ohne Autor (2018). This is the first time in Oscar history that three out of the five nominees were foreign films. All three films were also nominated for Best Foreign Language Film.

After seeing his performance in this film, Danny Boyle - who was briefly attached to directing the 25th James Bond film - wanted to cast Tomasz Kot as the villain. The Bond producers disagreed with his choice, wanting a more established name, so Boyle quit the project.

The first film since Foxcatcher (2014) and only the second film overall to earn an Academy Award nomination for Best Director, while not earning one for Best Picture, since the Academy increased the number of Best Picture nominees to more than five in 2009.

Tomasz Kot had to learn to play the piano for the film.

At 48:38, when Zula meets Wiktor in Paris, they kiss each other under the sign "Place Emile Goudeau" and he says "I was waiting for you". It might be an Easter egg for "Waiting for Godot" by Samuel Beckett as the French pronunciation of Goudeau sounds just like the American one for Godot.

The cast rehearsed for six months before production really began.

Pawel Pawlikowski's second film since he returned to live in his native Poland after spending several years in the UK. Ida (2013) was the first.

Co-screenwriter Janusz Glowacki died before the film was released.

A huge commercial hit in Poland.

Even though the stated purpose of the troupe is to promote Polish folk music, Wiktor has a picture of Russian composer and pianist Dmitri Shostakovich on the wall rather than a Polish composer such as Chopin. Initially set in 1949, Shostakovich at this point in his musical career had been accused of falling under the Western influence. His works were banned and he was dismissed from the Leningrad Conservatory. The appearance of this picture may have foreshadowed Wiktor's later defection to France.

User reviews



Reading around some of the reviews of Zimna wojna, I recognise that this should have been a film I liked, loved even, as so much of what these critics are praising are exactly the kinds of things I myself often look for in a film. It's one of the best reviewed films of the year, and I freely acknowledge there's a huge amount to praise here, with elements of the visual design borderline genius. However, all the aesthetic brilliance in the world doesn't hide what, for me, is its single greatest flaw - it just left me utterly cold; I didn't care about the two main characters, and I didn't buy their relationship. Yes, I'm aware that emotional detachment is exactly what it was going for, and it's probably unfair to criticise a film for successfully doing what it intended to do, but when it ended, all I could think was "meh." Whilst I can certainly appreciate much of what is on offer, and understand why critics have loved it, the end result for me was one of indifference. Although, to be fair, that may say more about myself than the film.

Written by Pawel Pawlikowski, Janusz Glowacki, and Piotr Borkowski, and directed by Pawlikowski, who loosely based the story on events in his parents' lives, the plot of Zimna wojna is simplicity itself. The film begins in 1949, two years since a communist government came to power and the country was provisionally renamed Rzeczpospolita ludowa (Polish People's Republic). It opens with composer and pianist Wiktor (Tomasz Kot), his ethnomusicologist producer Irena (Agata Kulesza), and rigid state-sponsored overseer Kaczmarek (Borys Szyc) travelling through the isolated rural communities of the Polish countryside, recording folk songs and attempting to find recruits for a folk music school, with the aim of putting together an ensemble to perform nationally, and hopefully, internationally. Wiktor is bored out of his mind with the repetitive nature of the work, until a young woman named Zula (an extraordinary Joanna Kulig) comes to the school to audition. Although she doesn't fit the profile of what they are looking for - she's from the city rather than the countryside, is rumoured to have spent time in prison for killing her father, and performs not a folk song at her audition, but a piece from a Soviet film - and although Irena points out there are better singers, Wiktor argues that she has "something different." Irena, who may, or may not, be in love with Wiktor, immediately recognises that he's enamoured with Zula, but he assures her he's acting out of pure professionalism. Of course, he isn't, and soon enough, he and Zula are in the midst of a passionate relationship. And that's pretty much it as far as the plot goes. The rest of the film takes place over 20 years and four countries (Poland, France, Yugoslavia, and East Germany), but it never branches out from the central relationship. There are no subplots or significant supporting characters; the narrative is pared down to within an inch of its life, with every scene, every line of dialogue, every action, existing only in relation to this focal driving force.

So, to look first at some aspects of the film which I liked. The aesthetic is absolutely unparalleled, as Pawlikowski and director of photography Lukasz Zal allow the visual design to both originate from and convey thematic points, a truly extraordinary example of form and content blending into one another. As an example, the film is exquisitely shot in Academy ratio (1.37:1), which has the effect of confining the characters within the frame. The nature of the film lends itself to sweeping vistas and cityscapes captured in anamorphic (2.39:1), but, instead, Pawlikowski and Zal use the box-like nature of the Academy frame to trap the characters, meaning they don't seem free even when standing in the vast open countryside or in Paris at night. The epic nature of the narrative and the confined frame work in a kind of ironic symbiosis to visually convey the important theme of the tensions within and between the characters; freedom and confinement constantly working against one another.

Another example of the synergy between form and content is the use of focus. For example, in the opening scene, the shallow focus creates a depth of field so small that the village just behind the in-focus singers is completely flattened. This renders it visually inaccessible, and thus compels the audience to concentrate fully on nothing except the foreground singers. Compare this with the scene where Kaczmarek is giving a speech extolling the glory of the state and the prestige of the school to a collection of bored students, all the while a cow is wandering around in the mud behind him. The use of a deeper focus here than in the opening means that the cow falls within the larger depth of field, and can be clearly seen, once again directing the audience's attention, only this time that attention is directed away from the foreground character as opposed towards him. The cow, obviously enough, serves as a commentary, telling us exactly what Pawlikowski thinks of Kaczmarek's speech, and the ideologies underpinning it.

Another scene of this ilk is when a worker is attempting to hang a "We welcome tomorrow" banner on the front of the music school, under directions from Kaczmarek. However, falling from his ladder (and by the sounds of it, falling to his death), the banner is never hung, hanging limply across one side of the building. Again, as with the cow, this is Pawlikowski criticising the state-sanctioned machinery introduced by the Polska Zjednoczona Partia Robotnicza (Polish United Workers' Party) since 1948. Of course, the communists are not "welcoming tomorrow" - they are far more interested in the past, which is why they are collecting folk songs; in an effort to create a Politburo-approved musical tradition designed to instil both national pride and political conformity, by rejecting the "western" rock & roll music of tomorrow in favour of a musical past.

Speaking of music, in relation to the way the opening scene is shot, it instantly becomes clear how vital a part of the story music and singing are. As the narrative develops, music becomes Wiktor and Zula's everything - they derive hope from it, they imbue it with their feelings, it brings them together, it drives them apart, it even comes to symbolise the strange bond between them, never moreso than when Wiktor refers to an album on which they have been collaborating as "our child."

Another structural aspect that is exceptionally well handled is how Pawlikowski designs the time jumps, as the film skips forward to the next instalment in the story. When a sequence is finished, the film cuts to black, and then, using a variation of a J cut, the sound from the next scene can be heard a few seconds prior to the image being seen. Furthermore, that sound is usually music, reemphasising just how important music is to these characters. Interestingly however, the last few time jumps don't use music to introduce the incoming scene, perhaps referring to the changes in the characters' circumstances at this stage of the film, the darker ideological underpinnings of their psyches. In relation to this, it's also worth pointing out that once we get to the second half of the film, the two leads almost never smile (not that they smiled that much in the first half). Ironically enough, the character who smiles the most is probably Kaczmarek.

So, having spent all this time waxing lyrical about aspects of the film which impressed me, why did I not enjoy it? As I said above, there's a huge amount to admire here, the craft is exceptional, but, at the end of the day, this is a romance. And it doesn't work as a romance. Yes, it's not what you would call a standard romance by any means, the character motivations and justifications that you'd see in other narratives of this ilk (not just filmic texts) are absent here, and maybe because of that, although there was undeniable chemistry between the leads, I just didn't buy their seemingly insatiable compulsion to seek one another out, sleep together, hurt one another, and then split up. The problem is, this exact template happens about five times - they meet, have a great time for a while, argue over something, and one runs off. Wash, rinse, repeat. And even at only 85 minutes, this kind of structural repetition becomes, well, repetitive, as I increasingly found myself asking "why are these two even together?"

To give you an example of what I'm talking about, during one particular argument, after Zula finds out Wiktor has been lying to people about her background, he explains, "I wanted to give you more colour". Seriously? These are two people who have precious little respect for one another; beneath all the eroticism and physical attraction, they are simply two irreparably damaged people trying to save one another, living with a co-dependency, but instead hastening each other towards destruction. And as I couldn't buy into the believability of the romance, the entire enterprise floundered; it never achieves the status it seems to be aiming for, that of cathartic high-tragedy. And although the end is very well done, and the last line is spectacular, it left me unmoved, because, by that stage, I just didn't care. True, the structure of the film and the insanely tight editing means that events in their lives are glanced at rather than lingered over, so the kind of nuances and character beats you'd often expect are absent, with the audience being allocated no time to allow themselves become enveloped with the emotions on screen. As the narrative is built on ellipses and omissions, many (in fact, almost all) of the standard romantic tropes simply aren't present. By design, the film is barren and emotionally impenetrable, and in that sense, Pawlikowski seems to have been attempting to construct as detached a narrative as he possibly could. If anything, he succeeds too well.


Less is most definitely more in Cold War. Using the same academy ratio and frosty black and white from the Oscar-winning Ida, the Polish auteur's new film tells the tale of a tragic romance between a musician and a singer, spanning fifteen years and the fractured continent of post-war Europe. We first see Wictor (Tomasz Kot) in the depths of a Polish winter in 1949, as he and fellow musicologist Irena (Agata Kulesza) putter around the frozen landscape in a truck, recording folk music wherever they find it.

Along with administrative bureaucrat Kaczmarek (Borys Szyc), a school is set up to harvest young talent and create an ensemble to celebrate Polish musical culture and tradition. Competition is fierce but one candidate catches Wictor's eye, a young blonde student called Zula (Joanna Kulig). She's ambitious and sly and it's rumoured she killed her father: 'He mistook me for my mother and I used a knife to show him the difference'. Wictor falls hard and, despite the dangers inherent in the situation and the fact that Zula might even be informing on him, a love affair begins.

As concerts are given and the school proves its value, so the state intervenes and folk music gives way to propaganda, with songs about the joys of agricultural reform and the wonder of Stalin. The group also tours abroad to export a vision of peasant authenticity and associated Soviet values. At this point, Wictor decides he's had enough and plans to use a trip to Berlin to cross with Zula to freedom and the West. Zula, however, uncertain and afraid, misses her chance and Wictor crosses alone.

So their love affair becomes as fractured as Europe, but crucially their serial separations are caused as much by their own decisions as by any external political forces. Zula's lack of courage is one such moment, but she also tells Wictor: 'I would never have crossed without you'. Pawlikowski has structured his film in a series of economic scenes, separated by fade-to-black lacunas where years pass, unseen and mute, and opportunities are irredeemably lost. Lukasz Zal's simply sublime cinematography now replaces the snowy tones of Poland for the cigarette-smoke greys, nightclub dark and sharp neon whites of Paris. The music also evolves from folk to propaganda and then to jazz and a quick burst of drunken rock n' roll. Later, it will find an atrocious denouement in the kind of 'Boom-Boody-Boom' Eurotrash, giving the sense that the world has moved an insuperable distance from Wictor and Zula's beginnings.

Wictor and Zula are both played with aplomb by Kot and Kulig, neither falling into the stereotypes that others would have them be. Despite his garret flat, he's not the tortured artist and, for all the damage done, she's no simple femme fatale. They are flawed and wilful - liable to jealousy and a free hand with the booze - but their mistakes are punished disproportionately and therefore unjustly. The borders might separate them, but they also imbue their love with a stoic tragic heroism. Pawlikowski's Cold War is dedicated to his parents, on whose love affair it is loosely based. It is an appropriately beautiful and sympathetic tribute. This is the refined work of an artist at the peak of his powers. A true masterpiece.


The first thing to state about this beautiful movie is that it's monochrome. So stunningly so that at times you feel you are in a photographic gallery rather than a cinema. The quality of the cinematography is quite extraordinary thanks to Lucas Zal.

It's also in 4:3 format. Not the square format of Instagram, but close.

We don't see 4:3 very often these days but Wes Anderson used it to immense effect in Grand Budapest Hotel and so did Lazslo Melis in Son of Saul.

It's an engaging format that draws you in. It suggests a time before cinemascope (16:9 etc) and only really works in period cinema of a time.

This time.

But it also lends itself to incredible framing, such as when our female protagonist floats down a river gradually disappearing out of shot, and later in the movie when the chief protagonists leave a bus and walk out of frame in a composition that Henri Cartier Breson would be proud of.

It's one of the most beautiful movies I've seen in many years.

In truth that's probably its biggest strength.

It is, but it isn't really, narrative driven. More episodic than story driven but it does tell a tale about director Pawel Pawlikowski's parents' love affair set against the Cold War backdrop in his native Poland.

It's fairly sordid in a way (his mother was abused by her father as a child) but without anything shocking to see.

Imagine, yes.

The two leads ( Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot) are magnificent. Brooding, beautiful (although unconventionally so) and real.

Lucas Zal has a great time dwelling on three particular things. Crowd shots. Amazing, Dance sequences. Amazing. Joanna Kulig (the lead). Amazing.

In particular, Joanna Kulig has a stand out performance. She's not one to show her enjoyment in life. Sullen most would say. But it is an immense performance.

It's a love story, set against the challenges that Cold War Poland put in front of people of artistic belief where communist doctrine made creativity very difficult.

What Pawel Pawlikowski achieves is a mood piece of exemplary, peerless really, detail.

And it's a musical.

I was constantly drawn to comparing it to La La Land, yet it is so NOT La La Land. Partly it's down to Kulig who shares the unorthodox looks (beauty) of Emma Stone. Partly it's the framing of Zal.

And the music fuses from Polish country folk to French basement jazz (which La La Land would have been so comfortable with).

This is an Oscar nomination shoe in. It's absolutely brilliant.

And, at 88 minutes, certainly does not outstay its welcome.


A Straight 10 from me.


Stunningly filmed with two actors who're very nice to look at and some great (and some purposefully, humorously cringe-worthy) music. Yet, it is hard to feel for the characters, one an almost-alcoholic, self-destructive woman who doesn't think much of herself, and the other, a stupidly loyal man. It's not clear, especially when they meet in France, what they have together that keeps them in love. There seem to be real problems, but we only glimpse at them without much development. It's baffling that he'd leave his freedom and risk being captured and tortured to go back to Poland just for her. The love they so value is not well developed, we do not see it really form and bond them. We see some lust, some physicality, and a lot of betrayal (on her part). The ending will frustrate many people. Comes a bit out of the blue. Why not continue to ruin each other's lives? Sadly, this is a film where form dazzles, but content leaves much to be desired.


The cold war between the western and the communist worlds has undoubtedly marked the life of anybody born in the second half of the twentieth century. And, of course, it has been a subject of many great films, too numerous to list here. Naming the film "Cold War" can therefore either be taken as being ironic, or very ambitious. I am not sure, but I think the director Pawel Pawlikowski meant it mostly in the latter sense, although the former is not completely excluded. Except mostly visually, the film however fails distinctly to deliver on the promise of its grandiose title.

The film depicts two passionate lovers, who are both Polish, although from different worlds, divided by culture and status. This division, however, does not matter much in the new Poland of 1949, and they, both being strikingly better looking than the people around them, fall in love. They are united by their love of and talent for music, but temperamentally, and we can guess intellectually, differ quite a bit. Their persistent desire for each other drives the plot, and we follow them through their many tribulations, first with too serious art directors, then Polish communist apparatchiks, well-meaning bur arrogant French intellectuals, each other, jazz musicians in Paris clubs, Yugoslav secret service, and even prison guards. All of this takes place over many years, and their inability to truly be together, because of themselves primarily but the external circumstances as well, is, naturally, exhausting. This leads them to an unexpected final solution for their predicament that ends the film.

The film is very well shot and put together, and contains plenty of interesting Polish folk dances and songs, which are enjoyable and worth seeing. It makes some good points about an easy corruption of true art by politics and fashions of the day. It is also hard to resist the main actress (Kulig) with her voice and spontaneity, but one is hard pressed to see why she is so enchanted with her very serene lover, except that he is a musical authority, and also happens to be exceptionally tall. The real problem starts once the viewer realizes that the film runs smoothly only by constantly remaining on the surface of things, be it their love affair, communism, or the Parisian art scene. We learn almost nothing about the basic psychology of the main protagonists, or about the communist Poland, and especially little about the wider context from the film's title, which exerts some influence over their relationship only to a rather limited degree. Everything is treated at the level of a postcard, which looks good, but was taken in an instant and was not too seriously thought through. (For example: not every artistic male in Paris had a five-day beard in the 50s; that actually became fashionable more recently and was quite atypical at that time!) Five minutes of Wajda's "Man of Marble", to name another Polish film, say more about Stalinism than the entire "Cold War". Nothing wrong with that, of course, but without this political context of the film this modern take on Romeo and Juliet would certainly not have been so enthusiastically greeted by the western audiences and the critics. In other words, if the film did not pretend to deal with certain period of world history it would have been taken for what it actually is: a not well motivated and rather naive love story.

It would be interesting to learn how the "Cold War" was greeted in Poland. A qualifier is probably warranted here: the film is in fact a Polish/British/French co-production, made by a basically British director (Pawlikowski), who is Polish by birth. To this reviewer it has a flavor of those Eastern European films made to appeal to Western festival circuit, by playing skillfully on some existing prejudices about the East. (In fact, one of more interesting scenes in the film, a brief confrontation between the main heroine and the French female poet, makes a comment on precisely this point.)

In sum, black and white photography and unusual formatting alone do not make a great film; the script matters! This may be lost on the Cannes' jury this year ("Best director" to Pawlikowski !?), and I fear may even suffice for an Oscar (it has all the necessary ingredients for the foreign film category, which is: sympathetic characters, unbridled passion, totalitarianism (preferably Russian), nice visuals), but will not fool anybody remotely familiar with the works of Wajda, Kieslowsky, or Zanussi. If it lures somebody to search for more substantial Polish cinema of the distant or more recent past, however, it has served some good purpose.


From the Academy Award-winning director of Ida comes another cold, stark & emotionally distant feature, this time centred around a couple that can neither stay together nor live apart. Taking inspiration from his own parents' turbulent history, Pawel Pawlikowski's latest is a tale of cursed love in cursed times.

Set in the ruins of post-war Europe, the story concerns a musical director who discovers a young singer and helps her refine her talent. The plot follows their romance over the years as their different backgrounds, varying temperaments & politics of the era keep separating them apart & bringing them back together.

Co-written & directed by Pawel Pawlikowski, the film definitely benefits from its splendid camerawork & wonderful music but the romance aspect is both stale & soulless. Watching the same episode repeated time n again in different places & years gets old & boring real soon, plus we never even grow to care about them.

The two lovebirds have no individual lives of their own. The story never digs into that aspect, for it only shows us the segments that brings them together before driving them apart again. And the repetitive nature of it makes sure that we are never invested in them or their relationship or the troubles they find themselves in over the years.

Difficulties of living in exile or under totalitarian regime are only glimpsed at but never explored. Joanna Kulig & Tomasz Kot do well with what they are given and while their work looks impressive, it doesn't truly resonate on an emotional level. It's a good thing that the film is only 85 minutes long and ends before it becomes an ordeal to sit through.

On an overall scale, Cold War is beautiful to look at but its story doesn't stimulate the senses the way its arresting imagery does. The frame composition, greyscale photography, crisp camerawork and excellent musical choices actually turned out to be its saving grace, for without them, this Polish drama would be no less than an absolute chore. In a word, underwhelming.


Reading a bit of the blurb surrounding Pawel Pawlikowski's Cold War, it would seem that this is a film based loosely not on his own experiences, but on those of his mother and father.

Not only were they hopelessly in love, but they were, to all intents and purposes, a bit rubbish at it. Pawlikowski refers to the fact that they seemed all too able to create chaos out of order by way of their poor decision making and general impetuosity; thereby frequently courting romantic disaster.

Set to the backdrop of post-war Poland, Pawlikowski's film traces the ups and downs of a highly passionate and volatile relationship between two somewhat mismatched lovers: musical impresario, Wiktor (Tomasz Kot), and the singer / dancer and all-round apple of his eye, Zula (Joanna Kulig).

Zula is one of the star turns of the Mazurek Ensemble, a musical collective created by Wiktor and his musical business partner, Irena (Agata Kulesza), which seeks, above everything, to preserve the purity of the traditional music of Poland.

This purity is however soon to be compromised by political forces and it's not long before the ensemble is obliged to espouse all manner of Stalin-esque Soviet propaganda to the wider world, much to the chagrin of Wiktor whose own personal Western ideals and values are in direct opposition to this.

While on tour in East Germany, Wiktor sees an opportunity to escape this autocratic nightmare and conjures up a plan for he and Zula to flee across the border from East to West Berlin. This he believes will allow the couple the best possible opportunity to live a creative life free from the shackles of repressive Communism.

But while Zula is apparently receptive to Wiktor's idea, to what extent exactly? And what place and role - she secretly ponders - could a young Polish country girl possibly have in such a brave new world?

Pawel Pawlikowski effortlessly combines elements of romance, politics and art here to form an absolutely mesmerising piece, helped in no small way by two wonderful lead performances of quite some stature from Kot and Kulig.

Artistically creative and texturally sumptuous, Lukasz Zal's cinematography is quite simply breathtaking, and enhanced no end by the decision to shoot in monochrome. This is a choice which accentuates not only the dank unrelenting greyness of a Communist-era Poland, but the brooding smokey cool of the hip 1950's Parisian jazz scene which Wiktor embraces following his ultimately lone defection from East to West.

Perhaps most impressive of all though is the film's exquisite soundtrack. From a selection of luscious traditional and jazz arrangements of Polish folk tunes, to an expertly curated selection of classical pieces and rock and roll hits of the time, this is as overwhelming a cinematic sonic experience as I have had in many a year.

Pawlikowski's film somehow creates the feel of a sprawling three hour epic yet at just 88 minutes in length, this is a lesson to all film makers in achieving maximum impact from what is almost bordering on short-form film making - in the context of Oscar-nominated major motion pictures, that is.

Above all, Cold War is a wonderfully memorable and immersive tale of promised yet untenable, ill-fated love in unforgiving times, and undoubtedly an award-winner in the making.

This and hundreds of other reviews are available on my WaywardWolfBlog


I had the good fortune to see this excellent film at the Pod Baranami film house in Kraków in July... at the (heartbreaking) end of the film the audience sat in silence while the credits rolled. At 88 minutes it is a short film, it is in a subtle black and white, there are no fancy effects, one scene follows another with a brief blank screen between, and yet the film grips from beginning to end. The ensemble performances are strong, the two leads are magnificent and the sense of place and period are perfect. What is extraordinary is the way in which the film creates a potent reminder of the ways in which the human spirit and love can survive the worst that a totalitarian state can inflict on its people. In our time, while far right politics rears its ugly head, there is also a timely warning in this extraordinary achievement in European cinema.


After watching the film 'Ida', the impression produced by this second film known outside Poland by Pawel Pawlikowski is that it is a commission in the shadow of his success and not a quiet and meditated work of which the author can feel proud father. Probably in Ida's creation the author easily spent five years of his life, in this one it is obvious that the script are some brushstrokes sketched on the basis of fused in black and label of 'A few years later' that slow down the rhythm and burden a story that in this case is conventional in itself but typical and not very credible. The first twenty minutes it seems that he was going to be satisfied with making a Carlos Saura type film about Flamenco, only that applied to Polish folklore, and to the specific time in which they were under the yoke of the Warsaw Pact, it would have been a worthy effort because both the music and the interpretations in that first part are really outstanding, but the melodrama enters the scene and spoils everything. A lost opportunity and a downturn in the trajectory of this author that we hope will give us much more 'Idas' than 'Cold Wars' in the future.


I agree with many reviewers here. It is beautiful cinematography, but the story is loose and doesn't make sense or engage you enough. It left me cold and more than that, the female was really irritating. I understand what the director was trying to say: i came from that region too, but some story lines don't make sense. As patriotic as you can feel, you don't choose communistic Poland or any communist country over amazing Paris (especially when you are an artist) AND leave your soulmate behind. That is why many people were trying to escape. May be she was nostalgic or couldn't connect emotionally to French culture, as an artist? It is not very clear from the script. In overall, she was pictured as spoiled selfish "femme fatale" that ruined their chance for happiness while he has weak personality, that sacrifices his life and freedom for ungrateful partner. May be this is unconditional love? I didn't find her attractive either for some reason, while he fits the part better. For me, unlike Ida that was amazing, this is only 6/10.


There is perhaps no greater example in recent memory of a film that so successfully makes the political personal. It is moving without ever once feeling contrived. This deserves the next Foreign Film Oscar by a longshot.


Great movie, very efficient in delivering the most content with minimalist means. Everything is perfect: top acting, top direcing, fabulous photography, incredible music and the writing... The writing is the best. The writing provides the essence of what Cold War was about historically. You needed to read between the lines all the time, nothing was given to you straight.


Visually, this film is stunning and beautiful example of film noir.

The narrative leaves a lot to be desired. This film is portrayed as a love story, star crossed lovers in post way Poland. However in my humble opinion I wasn't convinced that they were in love, not convinced that there was romance. To be honest it came across as self indulgent tripe.

From Zula not showing up to their destined meeting in Berlin to escape to the west, to Zula leaving Wiktor in Paris while she returned to Poland. I want you, but I don't. And now I do again. Wiktor in his soppy "I will follow her no matter where" does just that and despite very high risk of incarceration, goes to find her and does find himself in jail. Thats paraphrasing much of the story but it is less painful than actually watching it.

Zula comes to the rescue when she claims she will get Wiktor out. Fast forward and there is an implication that she got together with Kaczmarek and had a child.

When Wiktor is freed he goes to the show and sees them all. Zula gets off stage, walks straight past her child without a glance to greet Wiktor. WHY????????? Why even bring a child into the narrative? It did absolutely nothing to improve this story and just made the ending even more unpalatable.

The ending.... well Wiktor and Zula symbolically marry in a ruined church. Once their vows are made, they swallow a whole bunch of pills. While not specifically shown you can guess that suicide is the end.

I wanted to like this. I really did. Unfortunately I found myself wondering if I had watched a different edit to the critics because I found it to be utterly forgettable, selfish and self indulgent. The cinematography was not enough to save it for me.


This movie is great. It shows story of ordinary people in difficult times. It helps You imagine what were people going through in eastern Europe not more than 70 years ago. There was no one shot of violence, yet at the end You should grieve. The movie is fullfiled with beautiful music from past times. Actors performance is very memorable. Great movie!


Pawlikowski's newest film begins with a series of Polish-culture music takes. Right there, one can see how the movie is going to be driven. Faces marked with past struggles and the love for the home country. Desolation at its peak. As far as the music concerns, it constructs a background for a love story that threatens the lives of two strong-minded lovers who need their own bubble, but can't keep the romance because of a stained political bias that surrounds artistic developments. That being said, the cold war that names the movie is a perfect match for an impossible affair. Cold War couldn't be made if not in black&white. It creates an astonishing view on what it takes to put love in the first place. And the cinematography, conducted by Oscar-nominated Lukasz Zal, is beautifully driven, introduces the viewer to the psychology of two charming characters and delivers a sad but wonderful experience. Joanna Kulig's Zula is, as it shows right off, a strong woman with a distinct personality: she's passionate, confident and has a mysterious aura around her. You can see why one could fall in intense love, as it struck Wiktor. Pawlikowski had a simple story become grand and powerful and is, rightfully so, considered one of the year's best directors.


Let's get one thing out of the way - Pawel Pawlikowski is a talented beast. He knows what he wants aesthetically, he makes sure his films are the perfect visual experiences with nice music and great editing - something you don't get too often in polish mainstream cinema - and he is overall a decent guy. I enjoyed Ida less than most people, but I respect that film. At least you could call it a coherent story.

When it comes to Cold War, however, things get tricky. It looks and sounds fantastic. It's a technical marvel, at least by polish standards. Having said that, you'd be better off watching it without sound.

The story is a mess. The characters are walking tropes. The actors (except for Agata Kulesza and Tomasz Kot, who don't disappoint) don't seem to know what they are doing. The dialogue is simply laughable and the pacing is so terrible, I can't even describe it without swearing.

How am I supposed to believe in love between two people, if we aren't shown any? And yes, it is supposedly a story about a mismatched couple that can't live without each other - what a shame there is absolutely no chemistry, nothing but point-blank declarations from the characters. I believe that you need much more than sex on screen and a person saying "I love you" to portray a touching romantic experience. Because if this film isn't a romance, what do we have left?

It leaves out important parts of the story, like relationship development. The ending is a joke (historic accuracy much?). Joanna Kulig is infuriating. Borys Szyc left me screaming in frustration.

It's a shallow film that tries really hard to be much more than it ends up being. It won't bring anything into a viewer's life, maybe except for passionate discourses about said flick on parties. But those discourses annoy everyone, so the only two people really benefitting are Pawlikowski and your inner critic. A very disappointing movie.


This is another case of style over content. The look of this film is stunning , deliberately reminiscent of the European films of the 50'sand 60's however there is no substance to the story. The script jumps years and places so many times that we never care enough about the main characters and their love story which is the main focus of the film (some would say only focus) as the major political changes that took place during this period are kept so far in the background that they seem insignificant and ultimately irrelevant.The jazz sequences in a Paris cafe only seem to be included to show some great smoky black and white photography rather than to move the plot forward. I appreciate that this is a very personal story for the director but in the transition to the screen he has lost the tragedy and emotion that he wanted to convey to audiences... and what could have been a great film is only 'quite good'.


I must admit that the movie is not bad. The black and white color style creates a romantic and nostalgic atmoshere, during the era of the beginning of the cold war. There are some impressive and well-played scenes (and that is something the director must be praised for, his visual aesthetic), especially in the beginning of the movie, showing the life in Poland after the war and the folkore culture. The perfume and sense of old times and the illustration of another era are so clear. This is the good side of the movie, that reminds us something of the old romantic movies. On the other hand, a movie that could simply be a masterpiece, it just ends to be "nothing special". The main reason is that, although it considers to be a love-film, love is not clearly illustrated. The spectator cannot really understand why their love is so strong, why these people are so stuck to its other. They continue to move all the time and make love and argue, while there is not enough "heaviness" to their relationship. It becomes boring at some point, just to watch people go around and argue and love each other without a reason. In cocnlusion, while I liked the way that the director presents the capitalist world, giving emphasis to the differences between the east and the west ethics and culture, I didn't like the way of presentation of the communist side, because he concentrates only to authority, power, jails and no freedom at all. The movie just left me with a sense, that I was expecting something more.


I watched "Ida". I've just watched this. I wonder if I'm missing something since each time I've come out from a Pawel Pawlikowski film wondering what the big deal is. The cinematography is pretty and the context, worthy. But that is it. I learned nothing, felt nothing for the characters and wasn't taken anywhere by this film. It's a case of the wrapping paper being better than the present.

I don't want to be mean about the filmmaker or wickedly speculate on the reasons this film has gained critical acclaim. What I can say is the mark of a good film, at least for me, is that you can and feel you must see it again as there is a recognition that there are so many things to appreciate that a single viewing cannot satisfy. These are two films that neither I nor many of the other people who watch it will ever see again--out of deliberate choice. That is all there is to say.


There is consensus forming that this film is a technical masterpiece with imperfect plot. I won't go into the already lauded shots and design, casting and performances; although I will say that this is the first time in my life that a film has made me actually gasp at the power of a cut. It's a masterclass in editing.

Personally, I wish this great film did not end with a suicide pact. I've read in interviews that Pawlikowski took a while to come round to this ending, so there must have been others. He's also said that there is 30% more footage which has gone unused. I would love to see an alternate ending, and a longer version of the film.

Many British and American viewers will see the lovers in Cold War as mentally ill and thoroughly tedious, while many Poles will see them as magically and transcendentally in love. It's about culture clash. I should know because I have Polish blood and I know Poland as well as I know England, America and the 'West'.

So I want to get into what I believe is the reason why many Anglophone audiences have a problem with the characters and plot.

This is empiricism versus voodoo.

First an illustration. Why is it that you can walk down London's Oxford Street in rush hour, and nobody walks into you? And then you arrive in Warsaw and you are walked into by three separate people who are not looking where they are going, on your first day there? The reason is that Londoners are looking a few meters ahead, they're aware of the consequences of their actions, that they have an effect on the world around them, that control of destiny is in their hands and think that awareness is important. Poles often have little confidence in their own effect on the world around them, there is no point looking where they're going because taking initiative has no effect - and besides, they are not responsible, and it doesn't matter anyway because there are more powerful forces such as god and love. Just look at the way the drive, too: the highest number of road deaths in Europe, because life is not in the driver's hands but god's.

In England the stereotype of emotional repression is still valid; it has perhaps been moderated by decades of influence from American self-help books, talk shows and rising awareness of psychology and psychotherapy. Many Brits still can't really express what they really feel, or need to get drunk to sort of get around to doing so. There is a sense of independence and responsibility for one's emotions, and that this is something to aspire towards. A Brit can remain polite while hating you. And emotional responsibility can get pretty boring; if you want passion, you have to go on holiday. In this environment, suicide seems to be an utterly idiotic and self-indulgent response to being in love.

By contrast in Poland, still to this day, there seems to be a far greater culture of psychological dependence between people, there are fewer personal boundaries, there is less of a sense of personal responsibility. Reckless acts of romantic love, 'co-dependence', outbursts of devotion and rage are all accepted as entirely normal parts of life. Emotional blackmail is a standard, everyday form of persuasion. Many Poles do things with little assumption that they are responsible for their own behavior - "it's not my fault" is a pervasive phrase used in Poland; the powerful force driving the individual is presumed to be the boss, the priest, the state, the parent or the spouse. Many Poles wait to be told what to do rather than take initiative - somebody else is thought to be in control, somebody else is going to look after them. The idea that you can teach your children independence by empowering them to feed themselves instead of their parents feeding them, or encourage them leave home, is often abhorrent and framed as neglect. It's not unusual for young entrepreneurs to be told they are being arrogant, they can be laughed at or put down by their (threatened) elders rather than encouraged and praised. While "independence" has become a buzzword amoung women and young people in England and America, it's a relatively strange concept to be preoccupied about in Poland. By extension, a suicide pact can be viewed as intensely romantic and even admirable, it's the ultimate proof of a love than can transcend life and all its banality.
Funny duck

Funny duck

"Cold War" is an overrated romance with magnificent cinematography and chemistry of the lead couple. Unfortunately the storyline of two lovers incapable to be together or distant from each other is not attractive despite some good moments. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): "Guerra Fria" ("Cold War")


Limited to under 90' the story is pared down to episodic trysts and rather beautiful music and dancing.So although it is great to watch at times it hasn't the haunting quality that remains with the viewer.I sat with my fellow viewers after and spoke of many things but not the film.Which is a shame as the director, I'm sure, wanted to instil the sense of desperation that would drive the two on/off lovers to end it all,together.I don't think he achieved that.


A musician and his muse carry out an on-again-off-again romance in the two decades following WWII.

"Cold War" left me feeling like my lack of understanding about Poland and post-war Polish identity prevented me from fully appreciating this movie. The whole time I was watching it, I felt like there was something I was missing. But I have to judge a movie based on my personal reaction to it, and this one left me cold. The two leads have little chemistry, and the movie doesn't make a compelling case that these two damaged souls can't live without each other. We're just told they can't, but we're never shown. Because I didn't care about their relationship, and I didn't much care for them as individuals (we never learn very much about either of them), I never felt vested in anything happening and I couldn't care less about whether they ended up together, apart, alive, or dead.

The film has some rapturous followers, so I'll have to just live with the fact that I missed the boat on this one.

Nominated for three Oscars at the upcoming 2018 Academy Awards: Best Foreign Language Film (Poland), Best Director (Pawel Pawlikowski), and Best Cinematography.

Grade: B-


This superbly shot and acted black-and-white drama from Poland is a worthy film from Pawel Pawlikowski. It doesn't quite live up to his outstanding previous film "Ida," but it comes close. Like "Ida," this film runs a fleeting 90 minutes and is shot in black and white using simple (but gorgeous) cinematography. For a film of such short runtime, "Cold War" is deeply ambitious, and for the most part, the ambition pays off. It is set over a considerable period of time both inside and outside of the Iron Curtain, and centers on a love story between a man and his student who meet at a state-run music academy in communist Poland.

The film's use of a variety of filmmaking techniques to depict the history and culture of postwar Europe through using historical context is outstanding. The simple and very powerful music is beautiful, as is every key shot in black-and-white. The two leads both give excellent performances, mixing desire for purpose in life with an intense feeling of passion that is prevalent among ambitious individuals in the era. Some of these strengths in the movie are even combined together to excellent results, such as a chilling scene when young women from the state music academy sing songs pledging absolute loyalty to Stalin on stage in performance. The juxtaposition of the different scenes in the movie is also done very well, as each scene simply cuts to black before the next major scene (set in a different region or area of Europe) begins. The only real complaint I have about this film is that while I really appreciated the ending for the most part, the tone of the film's finale felt slightly anti-climactic. Otherwise, this is a gem. Gladly recommended. 8/10


Pawel Pawlikowski was so flimsy and uncertain during the making of his "The Woman in the Fifth" (Ethan Hawke, 5.4 on IMDB) that the film ended up a huge commercial fail. It seems he's then continued his run of 85ish minute films by sticking to very simple stories told in frosty black and white and the 4:3 ratio. Why, they must be incredible arthouse films! Well, no.

This is not Kieslowski or Tarkovsky. There is no greater meaning or depth to be unpicked from a frame. The more you look, the more annoyingly shallow and superficial the film feels, like its been carefully constructed to hit enough notes to look like a worthy film. You can almost feel the director thinking "how can I shoehorn in a smoky jazz scene?" then "how can I shoehorn in some rock'n'roll dancing?" but there's precious little relevance to such scenes.

Its not a bad film. Its often nice to look at, and its fairly engaging (although it abruptly throws you out of a scene with the episodic 'jump ahead a few years' structure, when you don't feel like the scene you just saw was particularly relevant or substantial).

But what's the point? Love can't be stopped? Obsession transcends time and circumstance? Please. It gets to a point where it stops being relatable and never approaches the level of emotional maturity or intelligence that it pretends. I just don't trust or think that the director really has a clue what he's doing, and is simply throwing a lot of stuff at the wall in the hope that it 'looks' like a film. But its not more than the sum of its parts - the closer you look, the emptier it becomes.