Keep up-to-date on your favourite artists and movies, track gig and release dates, and join in the conversation.
Click here to listen to a brand new episode of Ink & Paint as Daniel discusses the groundbreaking classic 'One Hundred and One Dalmatians'!x
review, Cold War, Cold, War, film, movie, latest movies, new movie, movie ratings, current movie reviews, latest films, recent movies, current movies, movie critics, new movie reviews, latest movie reviews, latest movies out, the latest movies, review film, latest cinema releases, Australian reviews, cinema, cinema reviews, Joanna Kulig, Tomasz Kot, Borys Szyc, Agata Kulesza, Cédric Kahn, Jeanne Balibar, Adam Woronowicz, Adam Ferency, Adam Szyszkowski, Paweł Pawlikowski, Drama, History, Music, Romance film rating




By Chris Edwards
24th December 2018

A man and a woman in a turbulent relationship; she’s a star with powerhouse vocals, he’s the musician who discovers and magnifies her, cursing them both to a lifetime of crashing together and tearing apart. That’s right, ‘Cold War’ fits snugly on one side of some weirdly specific musical-romantic-drama-from-2018 coin, staring down ‘A Star Is Born’ with a steely glare. If heads is Gaga-infused blockbuster bombast, then tails is some brutally efficient Polish minimalism, as Pawel Pawlikowski returns after his Academy Award-winning ‘Ida’ from 2014 with a similarly styled and almost equally rapturous follow-up.

Again shooting in the Academy ratio, Pawlikowski once more boxes in a pair of lives left unmoored in Poland’s recent history. Replacing his previous film’s young novitiate and her fraught relationship with a female family member, each of whom are contending with their family’s tragic history, here he tells the tale of Wiktor (Tomasz Kot), a musical director, and Zula (Joanna Kulig), the young, ambitious chanteuse he discovers while building a new, traditional Polish folk super-group to rebuild a “music of the people”. And so sparks a sorrowful love story, spanning across more than a decade of passion and pain, heartbreaks and reunions, and traversing multiple European borders as these crazy kids try to work it out.


Though it may share stylistic points with the director’s previous effort and broad plot points with another of 2018’s awards contenders, this is a strikingly singular effort from a filmmaker who is fast becoming one of the most interesting international auteurs currently working. There’s a bleak carnality and smouldering romance dripping from every frame of this thing, even with formal and aesthetic choices that directly mirror those of his earlier, far more austere and cloistered (pun-intended) offering. It’s a testament to Pawlikowski’s clearly impressive ability mould the very film stock around his protagonists, crafting perfect evocations of the inner minds of the characters he focuses his gaze on.

In this, he is of course aided by such fantastic performers as Kot and Kulig, each lending emotional nuance amidst psychological impenetrability to figures that, in the hand of lesser actors, could have come across as cyphers or pawns in their director’s schematics. Instead, their charisma and chemistry burn off the screen, immediately selling every fiery development and ruthless twist in the lovers’ bumpy relationship. Kot’s Wiktor, handsome and reserved, with the pained, lovelorn stare of an Old Hollywood star, is the politically disillusioned and artistic-minded yin to the yang of Kulig’s Zula, a wary pragmatist with inarguable talent, fighting to get ahead and get out of a dead-end existence in the middle of nowhere.

This is a strikingly singular effort from a filmmaker who is fast becoming one of the most interesting international auteurs currently working.

She may admittedly have the showier role, but it is most definitely a star-making, film-defining performance from Joanna Kulig, and you’ll be hard-pressed not to fall in love with such a screen-blazing presence – it makes understanding Wiktor’s fascination particularly easy. Whether drunkenly dancing on a bar in Paris or coldly explaining her murder of her father, Kulig brings piercing insight to a ferociously independent spirit, somehow balancing a surfeit of emotions that are always bubbling up to the surface with a particular brand of enigmatic unknowability. It’s highwire work, delivered in such an off-handed manner and with such a perceptive ease as to clearly announce her as a fascinating talent to keep an eye on.

Yet it’s the film’s final frame that seems most beguiling, as Pawlikowski dedicates the film to his parents, whose names and turbulent love story formed the inspiration (if not the exact basis) of his film’s Wiktor and Zula. The director, who emigrated from Poland to England as a teenager and has only recently begun making films in his native tongue, here crafts a brisk, sumptuously confined love letter to his parents and their fraught relationship. Running at less than ninety minutes, he pares away all extraneous details, excising subplots or unnecessary detours, leaving a lean race through the years that highlights when they are together and making music above all else. In essence, they are two broken people, part of both a relationship and a country trying to rebuild and reconstitute an idea of itself, but always struggling with the trauma and onslaught of time.

And for one final comparison: nowhere else this year will you find such thoughtful, specific storytelling being told through song. The way these tunes are threaded and rearranged over the course of the film is masterful, and forms just as much of a bedrock in our understanding of the two leads’ relationship as the actors or cinematography. Take that, Bradley.

RELEASE DATE: 26/12/2018
RUN TIME: 1h 28m
CAST: Joanna Kulig
Tomasz Kot
Borys Szyc
Agata Kulesza
Cédric Kahn
Jeanne Balibar
Adam Woronowicz
Adam Ferency
Adam Szyszkowski
DIRECTOR: Paweł Pawlikowski
PRODUCERS: Tanya Seghatchian
Ewa Puszczynska
Looking for more Boxing Day reviews? Click here to check out our collection of this year's highlights.
Pocahontas - 25 years later, the colours of the wind are fading
TRENDINGPOCAHONTAS25 years later, the colours of the wind are fading
Boss Level - Nostalgic action and quirky foes
TRENDINGBOSS LEVELNostalgic action and quirky foes
xXx: Return Of Xander Cage - The good, the bad and the ugly
TRENDINGxXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGEThe good, the bad and the ugly
The Violin Player - Sex and strings
About A Boy - All grown up 15 years on
TRENDINGABOUT A BOYAll grown up 15 years on
Alliance Française French Film Festival 2021 - Elevate your spirits
The Shepherd - A true story through an unflinching lens
TRENDINGTHE SHEPHERDA true story through an unflinching lens
A Call to Spy - The unknown stories of real-life heroes
TRENDINGA CALL TO SPYThe unknown stories of real-life heroes
The Glass Room - Stunning yet soulless
TRENDINGTHE GLASS ROOMStunning yet soulless
Revisiting 'Dark City' 20 years later - The most underrated and influential sci-fi film ever?
TRENDINGREVISITING 'DARK CITY' 20 YEARS LATERThe most underrated and influential sci-fi film ever?
The Dark and the Wicked - 2020's scariest film
River's Edge - The kids aren't alright
TRENDINGRIVER'S EDGEThe kids aren't alright
Wet Woman in the Wind - A sexy struggle for conquest
TRENDINGWET WOMAN IN THE WINDA sexy struggle for conquest
25 Free-to-Watch Short Horror Films - The scariest shorts we uncovered online
TRENDING25 FREE-TO-WATCH SHORT HORROR FILMSThe scariest shorts we uncovered online
Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse - Fairly brainless
Then Came You - Then came the same movie over and over again
TRENDINGTHEN CAME YOUThen came the same movie over and over again
Waterloo - An epic recreation of the legendary battle
TRENDINGWATERLOOAn epic recreation of the legendary battle
Red Pill, Blue Pill - 10 films influenced by 'The Matrix' on its 20th anniversary
TRENDINGRED PILL, BLUE PILL10 films influenced by 'The Matrix' on its 20th anniversary
Malila: The Farewell Flower - Contemplating love and loss
© 2011 - 2021 midnightproductions
All rights reserved

Support SWITCH | Disclaimer | Contact Us!