CATHY ACK! After a long week of getting back into the swing of things; as well as being serenaded by Cold War's depression-inducing jazz soundtrack, I have not written much. Already two weeks into the year. Gotta stay on track of my resolutions! Give me the strength to keep me off Facebook!
On that note, I am writing about Polish Director Paweł Pawlikowski's Cold War. It has definitely been a film festival darling in 2018, racking up a Cannes Best Director Award (Pawlikowski), European Film Award for Best Film and New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Foreign Language Film to name a few. Walker and I bought our tickets to see what is the buzz was all about. One hour and a half later, we left the theater, hollowed. Cinematography and music are in a whole another orbit, accompanied with nuanced performances by Joanna Kulig (Zula) and Tomasz Kot. (Wiktor). The black and white imagery is striking as you are swept away into another time. After the credits roll, the voyeurism leaves a bitter aftertaste about how love is not always pretty and does not end well for those involved. Seemed almost Shakespeare to a fault. Many romances are traditionally celebrated in media as "boy meets girl, they fall head over heels for one another, they overcome challenges and live happily ever after." This piece of Polish cinema deconstructs romance like a jenga tower and architects something tragically poignant from the collapse.
Critics have praised it as the next "Casablanca," I could not disagree more. While both are marks of true auteurism and meditations in how war complicate the human condition, Pawlikowski has a starker vision. Cold War illustrates how borders (geographically and politically) unwillingly erode our desires to authentically connect. Thus we might drive ourselves to sabotage our own chances at happiness. No one is safe from self-destruction, even lovers. Zula and Wiktor are helplessly in lust with one another, but their polarizing backgrounds and temperaments create those sweet-sweet metaphorical borders. Paramours one moment, then destroyers the next.
The "blink and it's over" pacing is a risky direction as Zula and Wiktor's lives undergo drastic changes within the background of 1950s Poland, Berlin and Paris. Sometimes without context or a pinpoint to how they got there. You really have to connect one and two together to piece what might have happened. But just like life, people come in and out of your own. And there will be gaps. Heartbreaking moments of two lost souls finding refuge in each other are Pawlikowski's strongest suit. You can feel Zula and Wiktor's aches as they navigate a world chartered by sociopolitical uncertainty and a collective homesickness for the past.
Cold War is an emotional canvas splattered by a bleakness that reflects on the ethos of a generation. Is it romantic? No. But Pawlikowski's passionate efforts in channeling the despair of yearning strikes the heartstrings. 110% melancholy.
It is visually and aesthetically marvelous with intriguing characters that subvert your expectations of what makes a "love story?" Especially if you thought this was gonna be Casablanca 2.0 or Before Sunset in Poland. It is not. So just stop saying it. Go into the movie with an open mind and a guarded heart!
Written by Chandler Kilgore-Parshall