Cold war (Zimna wojna is the original title) is a 2018 Polish film whose director and screenwriter is Paweł Pawlikowski, who claims to have been inspired by the story of his parents (I hope only remotely). The protagonists are Joanna Kulig playing the femme fatale Zula and Tomasz Kot playing the musician Wiktor Warski.
This movie has two particularly beautiful things: a spectacular black and white cinematography and a fantastic soundtrack. The choice of black and white is perfect for the historical setting: the story takes place between 1949 and 1959 in Poland, Yugoslavia, and France and the splendid black and white images go well with all the locations used to develop the plot.
And the soundtrack… we can say that music is the fil rouge tying the hole movie together. We start with Polish folklore songs, we move on to the patriotic music of the era of Soviet influence, then we listen to 50s jazz in Paris (even the jazz-folk fusion thanks to the collaboration between Zula and Wiktor in the French capital), and the movie ends with some trashy music which was popular in Poland in the late 50s. In all cases, the director delights us with excellent camera work during the musical scenes and we cannot but marvel at the beauty of this eclectic soundtrack.
Unfortunately, for me, the good things end here. I finally got it: I don’t enjoy these love stories which are based on people hurting each other (and here I begin with the spoilers, I hope you’ll understand). I simply don’t sympathize with such stories, I cannot relate to the characters. So for the the plot of Cold war is nonsensical, it didn’t attract my attention not even for a moment.
Let’s admit that we buy the love at first sight between the two and that they live a passionate love story at the beginning. So why does Wiktor abandon her as soon as he can, during the concert in Berlin? If he couldn’t live without her, he shouldn’t have left her!!! And then we find him depressed in Paris waiting for the beautiful Zula to arrive. And after three years, she manages to reach him by exploiting a fake marriage with an Italian who doesn’t even show up in the movie. Is this the happy ending we would all love? No, of course it isn’t. The couple is unable to live together, one gets more depressed than the other. And after a few years she returns to Poland.
But of course he cannot live without her, so he goes back, too, but since he had escaped the regime years earlier… he’s charged with 15 years of concentration camp (with torture included). But it doesn’t matter, because he wants to be with her! And what does she do? To get him out sooner, she marries a slimy and disgusting person and even has a child with him! Finally, she uses her new husband to make Wiktor go out of the camp, they flee together, they get married… just to commit suicide together literally 30 seconds later.
I cry easily when I watch movies, but in front of this mess I wasn’t moved not even a bit. Nothing of what the two “lovers” do makes any sense, basically like in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom thread. That story didn’t seem interesting nor credible to me, and the same thing goes for Cold war. Another problem of the film for me is its uneven pace: after a first part which takes its time to tell the story, a series of temporal jumps become a little too intrusive and the last part of the story is literally just sketched. It almost seems that the director was in a hurry to close the story after losing too much time on its beginning… very strange!
But what a soundtrack! Time flies when watching the movie thanks to its amazing soundtrack! Ciao!