Cold War (5 stars)

Cold War

Cannes 2018: Pawel Pawlikowski follows the Oscar-winning Ida in beguiling fashion

The love of a lifetime takes everything you have in Cold War, an exquisitely crafted heartbreaker from Ida director Pawel Pawlikowski. Dedicated to his parents and shot in ravishing black and white, it offers a stunning marriage of haunting imagery and heartfelt emotion.

Beginning in the rubble of post-war Poland, the film feels like being given privileged access to a cherished album of family photographs. In 1949, Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) is among those charged with establishing a propagandistic music and dance academy that will celebrate the country's folk traditions. He is struck by the fiery spirit and vocal talent of Zula (Joanna Kulig).

It is the giddy spark that lights a passionate relationship which unfolds in music halls and hotels – from the repressive, melancholy gloom of Soviet domination to the high-risk freedoms of a jazzy, smoke-filled Paris in the 1950s. Jealousy, betrayal and eternal devotion all play their part in a romance that is constantly at the mercy of the era's politics but also reflects wider tensions within the country.

Steeped in song, Cold War could almost be a musical; dance numbers are staged with exuberance, jazz club performances smoulder, lyrics sigh with emotion. It is a treat for the eyes, with shots of a ruined church in Poland, a languorous night-time trip on the Seine, or anxious figures silhouetted against a window having the quality of something Murnau might have composed in silent-era Hollywood.

Kulig, previously in Ida, is the heart and soul of the film with her emotion-charged singing and ability to convey the fire and frustration of a woman for whom love becomes the most dangerous act of all. Every bit as beguiling as its Oscar-winning predecessor, Cold War already feels like one of the films of the year.

Screening as part of the Cannes Film Festival 2018. General release TBC.

Cold War

  • 5 stars
  • 2018
  • Poland / France / UK
  • Directed by: Pawel Pawlikowski
  • Cast: Joanna Kulig, Tomasz Kot, Borys Szyc, Jeanne Balibar

In 1949 Poland, Wiktor (Kot) is given the job of starting a folk music and dance academy, where he falls for Zula (Kulig). Pawlikowski’s film, dedicated to his own parents, is shot in ravishing black and white and is a stunning love story, steeped in song and emotion and exquisitely crafted.