Pawlikowski’s sweeping love story is one of the most stunning and passionate pieces of monochrome filmmaking in a long time.

Across its 85 minute runtime Cold War, by Oscar winning Pawel Pawlikowski, traces a romance over 15 years from both sides of the Iron Curtain. Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot play lovers Zula and Wiktor who struggle to maintain a personal relationship in a dispassionate, Soviet Europe.

The narrative is told through vignettes, giving insight into intimate moments at the beginning of their relationship, along with arguments juxtaposed against grand romantic gestures. The way vignettes cut out the excess time between these meetings reflects accurately the feeling of real life relationships; all that matters is the time you spend with the other person, which is probably what makes them such a mainstay in romantic filmmaking: think Vivre Sa Vie or In the Mood for Love. Where Wong Kar Wai’s masterpiece is accented with lavish set design – billowing red curtains and steamy alleyways – Cold War is trapped, first in a 4:3 frame and then again by its monochrome film.

It wouldn’t work without the brilliant performances offered up by Kulig and Kot. When you strip away those accessories and flourishes you need sincere and earnest characters to drive the story and they achieve just that. Still, it’s difficult not to wonder what the endless twirling of dancers in huge politburo halls adorned with communist ornamentation would have looked like in good old technicolour.

Don’t be dissuaded by its tags or plot summary. For a black and white, Polish, Soviet-era set film, Cold War is one of the most accessible human stories in recent memory.

4 stars

Image credit: Movie DB


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