Loosely based on director Pawel Pawlikowski’s parents’ lives, COLD WAR tells the love story of two mismatched individuals who have a passionate love affair during the 1950s. Visually exquisite, the film is portrayed in beautiful black-and-white landscapes of Poland, Berlin, Yugoslavia and Paris. The cinematography projects a dreamlike feel throughout the film, making the audience escape into the intimately exalting moments of the two star-crossed lovers.
Few words are spoken, nothing needs to be said, highlighting upon the well-known phrase ‘actions speak louder than words’ and emphasising the importance of the lover’s intentions and feelings towards each other. Music becomes a source which defines their relationship. Zula, an extraordinarily beautiful singer, strikes an undefinable connection with the conductor and pianist Wiktor. Immediately after their first glance, sparks fly between the two and both seem to be mesmerised by the presence of the other, setting the stage for an epic romance. The duo dance and perform to rural folk music under the ravaging communist rule of Stalin.
A remarkable sequence depicts the couples contradicting relationship where Zula loses herself in the melody of the music and drunkenly dances to the tune, feeling betrayed and ignored by her beloved. This sequence presents the two individuals’ conflicting personalities, and unfolds a chaotic moment amongst the characters. Their need for one another is clearly depicted: however, the likelihood of securing a Happily Ever After seems somewhat distant. Staying consistent with its title, the two lovers are as broken as the countries from which they originate. The struggles within their relationship can be compared to the conflicts that took place during the Cold War. Frequently throughout the film’s narrative, the lovers’ relationship remains confusing, frustrating and volatile, which may be an indication of what might have transpired between Pawlikowski’s parents. Apart from the strifes in their relationship, Pawlikowski invites a few moments filled with tenderness and warmth, where the couple appear to be blissful and cheerful as they walk the Parisian streets.
There is no definite explanation of why the two end up getting pulled towards each other time after time. This relationship is highly destructive and toxic; the audience crosses its fingers for a classic happy ending, but a relationship as complicated as this can only end up in chaotic occurrences.