Cold War: My Second Favorite Film Of All Time
Updated: Mar 21
Cold War (2018) is my second favorite film of all time. If it weren’t for JAWS, it would be my all time favorite. It’s high praise, but it deserves the title. It's a polish film made by a brilliant filmmaker named Paweł Pawlikowski. The film is set in the 1950s, where a music director falls in love with a singer, and he tries to persuade her to flee communist Poland for France. I'd like to go over why this film means so much to me.
My fiancée, Emily, was the one who told me about the film. She was my girlfriend at the time. She is Polish, as is her family. We share a similar taste in film, & she knew that Cold War looked like something we'd love to see. We were together for 8 months then. At the time, I was getting to know her family and their culture. We were very excited to see this film because it would be the first polish film we’d see together. Her family had seen it and loved it. We got our tickets and experienced something we'll never forget. It's one of my favorite movie theater experiences.
This film is beautifully shot. I could tell from the very first shot that I was going to love the film. Pawlikowski knew exactly what he was going for and he succeeded. His care behind the camera really shows. You can tell that a lot of passion went into this film. Each shot is meticulously planned to tell this fascinating love story. I learned something important in my script classes, and that is, "show what's necessary," and Cold War is a prime example of that.
Now, I'll be getting into some spoilers, so if you haven't seen the film, then I'd highly recommend checking it out. It’s on amazon prime.
This is a different kind of love story. It's one I admire for being so unique. This is a short film with an interesting pace. Scenes jump way ahead in time like it's nothing. The film stays consistent with its pacing and I think it works well for the story. An easy way to put it, this film "trims the fat" of its story. It's a love story that only shows certain aspects of the character's life.
Some complaints of this film are that it's too short, and the characters don't have enough development for their love to be believable. I'll address these issues. One, it's not short, it's the perfect length. One theme of this film is love and time. There's a quote in the film that states, "Time doesn't matter when you're in love." I think that line somes up the theme perfectly. It justifies the short length & the pacing.
When it comes to the relationship, the main characters have a "love at first sight" moment when they first meet. You can feel it when they look into each other's eyes. It's so beautiful. The main leads have some of the best chemistry I've ever seen. Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot deliver two brilliant performances. Kulig’s performance is my all time favorite female performance.
It seemed that the other complaint with this film involves their relationship and how it develops. I can see why people would feel this way, but I think it works. Like I said with the pacing, the film jumps through time, showcasing when they're together and how they've changed and grown as characters. When Wiktor wants to flee to France, he knows what he wants out of life but for Zula she decides to stay because she doesn't know what she wants. It makes sense because that's who they are as characters at that very moment. Even further in the film, Zula is still finding out who she is, even when she has everything she wants in Paris. Their love felt so real. When Wiktor decides to go back to Poland, even though he'd be arrested and thrown in prison for a long time, just wanting to see Zula again showcased how much he loved her. He really risked a good life in Paris just to see Zula again.
This film has some beautiful music. Zula singing Dwa Serduszka in le éclipse, with the camera circling her, is pure cinema. I get goose bumps every time I see it. It's my favorite scene in the whole film. The other songs and the jazzy score are also beautiful.
I love how this film showcases the beginning of the Mazowsze, which is a famous Polish folk group. It is named after the Mazowsze region of Poland. The film starts off with the main characters starting the group. Witkor and Irena are doing it for the art of the music, while Kaczmarek is only in it for the money. The old folk songs and dances help make this film feel like it’s really set in the 1940’s. It's pretty fun to see how different cultures are with their music, dance, and traditions. It's a nice peak into Poland's culture. My fiancée and her family told me the film is spot on accurate.
I was heartbroken in the beginning when Mazowsze was forced to change their act from showcasing traditional folk song and dances to becoming a political aspect. I love the scene where the Prime Minister of Poland offers Witkor, Irena, and Kaczmarek fame and fortune if Mazowsze sings about politics. Witkor and Irena quickly turn down the offer since it will be tarnishing their art, but Kaczmarek accepts the offer, knowing he’ll become very wealthy. The very next shot is Mazowsze singing about Stalin as a large banister of his face rises behind them. It’s a brilliant transition in every way. I feel sympathy for Witkor and Irena, because their passion for their art is gone. Irena quits and Witkor flees for France, kicking off the second act.
The cinematography is perfect. This is one of the best looking films I’ve ever seen. The black and white is gorgeous. It has a noir vibe and I love it. Each shot feels purposeful. The film is so aesthetically pleasing to watch. Łukasz Zal, the cinematographer, and Paweł Pawlikowski are a match made in heaven.
The ending.... the ending is truly heartbreaking. They end up back in a decrepit church we saw in the beginning. They get married and then they take a dozen pills. They loved each other that much they decided to take their own lives after marrying each other. The final shot and dialogue is so powerful. They’re sitting on a bench in the middle of nowhere. Zula says "Let's sit over there, the view is better." They move out of frame and the shot holds to the last thing they'll ever see alive. It’s brilliant, powerful, and emotional.
All in all, this film is a masterpiece. It's pure cinema. I love it with all my heart. It means a lot to me and my fiancée. It’s a film we can watch together whenever and wherever. It showcases our love for cinema and each other. I cannot recommend this film enough. It’s perfect.