Loosely inspired by a true story, Cold War (Zimna wojna) puts the spotlight on a love story where the couple keeps coming together no matter the odds.
We’re introduced to Zuzanna “Zula” Lichoń (Joanna Kulig) and Wiktor Warski (Tomasz Kot) in Poland a few years after the end of World War 2. While the Cold War serves as a backdrop, we don’t see much of the government tensions in spite of the film’s title. There is the request that the performers since songs that praise then-Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin. That’s about it on that front. What we do get, however, is Zula and Wiktor’s relationship at the forefront. The two come from very different backgrounds and have different personalities. Regardless, the two fall in love with each other. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. The big question one needs to ask is just how much do they want it?
The politics of the time do manage to drive some of their decision-making. Wiktor would rather be living in France then condemned to working for a group that ultimately answers to the government. From Poland, we travel to the likes of Berlin, Yugoslavia, and Paris. The striking moment comes while performing in East Berlin. This is when Wiktor wants to escape this life and head out for France. Zula, on the other hand, doesn’t think the plan will work and stays behind. Even as their own lives are doomed to different fates, they strive to see each other whenever they can. They may have their own personal agendas and find another in their lives but they still get drawn to each other.
Something I found interesting late in the film after a performance with a Spanish twist was that Zula had a kid with someone yet was still romantically interested in Wiktor. Even for a film that’s only loosely based on real life, you can’t help but feel for all the psychological issues of said kid.
Writer-director Pawel Pawlikowski tells the story of his parents, more or less. There’s no mistaking that he takes liberties in doing so to attract a broad audience. We’ll never know if the real story would be more appealing because we get a completely fictional story that only shares names and traits. Behind the camera, Pawlikowski makes some interesting choices for his follow up to Ida. The film is presented in a black and white 4:3 presentation. If black and white isn’t your thing, that’s okay. You might find the film’s musical scenes more to your liking. While some rock and roll songs of the era play in the background, the song selection is more of an earlier sound.
It’s the love stories like the one in Cold War (Zimna wojna) that have the ability to transcend time by offering us the most meaningful impact.
DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: Pawel Pawlikowski
CAST: Joanna Kulig, Tomasz Kot, Borys Szyc, Agata Kulesza, Cédric Kahn, Jeanne Balibar