my review: cold war

cold war is based on pawel pawlikowski’s own parents and their stormy relationship. in fact, the main characters have the same names as his mother and father.

the narrative of the film is polished, airtight, condensed — scenes are whittled down to their essence. for example, much of what happens to zula and wiktor when they’re apart remains off camera and is cut out of the film.

it is a fleeting, repeatedly interrupted romance that collides against broader political agitation. the lovers have to constantly move across borders, across the iron curtain itself, to be with each other. everything feels delicate and risky, close to imploding.
although the political conflicts that push the two lovers together and then apart, are squeezed out of the frame, their presence is felt strongly. there is constant dialogue between the story and the geopolitical changes that surround it.

music too enfolds them, brings them together, separates them, and evolves over time with them.

the film’s cinematography is stunning – a shimmering black and white, the contrast so rich that the black in the footage feels like velvet. the characters seem to push against this purity.

the boxy, 4:3 aspect ratio, might be a tribute to older films and a bygone historical era, but it also produces a sense of enclosure.

the love story at the center of the film is shaped by passion, insecurity and disappointment. when both characters meet in paris, one would have thought that all their problems would be solved. but i liked how we see a different side of immigration — the difficulty of leaving home and losing a part of oneself.

we witness a more nuanced difference between communism and individualism. in paris, wiktor has to master the art of commerce, selling and branding, whereas in communist poland, it’s more about ingratiating and appeasing people in power.
in spite of the film’s tight narrative control, it is open to interpretation. although it’s rooted in ideas about art, truth, love and politics, these themes are mostly suggested. they are not clarified or resolved. it’s almost like the film is some kind of gorgeously tragic metaphor.

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