Showing posts with label Pawel Pawlikowski. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pawel Pawlikowski. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Review: Cold War

This Cold War era love story by Pawel Pawlikowski is loosely based on his parents' relationship that in real life spanned the entire timeline of Cold War from beginning to end. It is evident by the product that he has put his heart and soul into this picture.

The movie itself is in black and white in its native Polish language with English subtitles. But that alone does not diminish the raw emotion of this work of art. The relationship at the heart of this film is between the music director of a folklore group and one of its performers.

There are plenty of tactical silences in this movie, which accentuate the dialogue and its characters ability to act without saying a word. It also is in contrast with the musical folklore group that the movie begins with. Its theme runs counter to the traditional Hollywood love stories and stays true to its Eastern European storytelling roots. WARNING: Beyond this point, you will read spoilers.

The movie begins several years after World War II, with the music director Wiktor (played by Tomasz Kot) and his subordinates traveling through Poland in search of its most talented performers in order to assemble a Polish Folklore Group. He comes across Zula (played by Joanna Kulig) who wows him with her... assets despite not having the most pure voice. He lets her into the folk group and they begin their torrid affair off stage.

As time moves on, the political forces in charge force Wiktor and the Folk Group's management to add to its performances a more Communist Promotional angle, which angers Wiktor and slowly leads him to consider defecting to the West. As in the 1950s Berlin still had no wall, while on tour Wiktor convinces Zula to escape across the line of demarcation in Berlin after their scheduled performance. At the last minute, Zula decides to stay, feeling that she doesn't have the stomach nor the talent to make it in the West, while Wiktor walks across the line and eventually settles in Paris.

Both characters seemingly move on, but on a chance encounter a few years later they are magnetically drawn to each other again and the passion displayed by both actors here is undeniable mastery in performance. They attempt to live together in Paris, but ultimately cannot. Jealousy, suspicion, and resentment build up to a boiling point and Zula runs back to Poland. Wiktor attempts to follow her back, but is arrested on suspicion of espionage.

They meet again in Poland, with Zula now having another husband and children. Yet the very same magnetism they have for each other is still strong as ever. They get back together for one final rendezvous and perform the very act that the Communist State denies them - a church wedding. It is not a formal wedding - the church is a crumbling ruins, there is no priest, and the only thing that makes this a proper wedding are the candles and their vows.

A good measure of a dramatic tour de force performance for me is whether or not a story lines draws me in and makes me care about the characters enough so that for that hour and a half (or more) I vicariously live through their experiences. In this case, the movie succeeded. I give this movie 4.5 out of 5 stars. It really shows that classic cinema is alive and well.

P.S. If you love this genre of Cold War era love stories, there is a 1988 movie that stars Daniel Day Lewis, Juliette Binoche and Lena Olin that is excellent - "Unbearable Lightness of Being"

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