Oscar-Nominated ‘Cold War’ Opens At Hillcrest Cinemas
Polish film looks to a love affair that spans decades and both sides of Iron Curtain
Thursday, January 24, 2019
"Ashes and Diamonds" (1958)
"The Unbearable Lightness of Being" (1988)
"In the Mood For Love" (2000)
In the turmoil of post-war Poland, Zula (Joanna Kulig) sings a love song for her audition with a folk dance company. Wiktor (Tomas Kot) is immediately bewitched. This leads to a tumultuous and passionate love affair that spans decades and both sides of the Iron Curtain. The political and historical backdrop proves as ever-changing and uncertain as the lovers themselves.
With "Cold War," Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski wanted to tell the story of his parents whom he described as "both strong, wonderful people, but as a couple they were a never-ending disaster.” But he added in the press notes for the film, “And although my parents and I remained very close — I was their only child — the more I thought about them once they were gone, the less I understood them. I’ve lived for a long time and seen a lot, but my parents’ story put all the other ones in the shadow. They were the most interesting dramatic characters I’ve ever come across.”
The resulting film is not directly about his parents but rather about a couple whose inability to bring peace to each other is seductively tragic and reflective of the relationship his mother and father had.
Pawlikowski gives the characters the names of his parents, Zula and Wiktor, but changes the facts of their lives around for the film. The Zula we are given is desperately trying to improve her situation and escape poverty. Wiktor is initially informed that she had killed her father. But when he inquires about her father she clearly and calmly states, “He mistook me for my mother so I used a knife to show him the difference.” But not to worry, she adds, he survived. She captivates Wiktor who is as much charmed by her charisma as he is attracted to the kind of danger she suggests.
In contrast to her, Wiktor is presented as from a more refined and educated world. In terms of personality, he is more calm and measured than Zula. But his restlessness comes from his need and desire to escape from the oppressive Communist regime where his beloved jazz is banned. Politics, betrayals, jealousy and the hardship of either life in exile or life under a totalitarian regime all place pressure on the relationship. During the course of the film the lovers part, reunite, fight, separate and find themselves drawn back together time and time again.
Shot in moody black and white, "Cold War" is a jazz-inspired riff on the inexplicable ways of the human heart and how we can’t always fall in love with the person who’ll make us happy. We want Zula and Wiktor to be together, yet we also realize it is an impossible thing. In many ways the film is a kindred spirit to the films ("In the Mood For Love," "Happy Together," and more) of Wong Kar Wai, which are all about loss and the possibility and impossibility of love as well as about time and memory.
"Cold War" (in Polish with subtitles) was one of the best films of last year and it is easy to fall in love with.
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