On paper, Pawlikowski’s latest reads like a sweeping, David Lean-esque epic, charting as it does the ill-fated 15-year love affair of Polish musicians Wiktor (Kot) and Zula (Kulig) against a backdrop of mounting authoritarianism in 1950s Eastern Europe. But Cold War is in fact a bold exercise in minimalism – scenes are brisk and extremely light on expository dialogue, the action flits disorientingly all over the continent, and the film clocks in at a lean 88 minutes. For the most part, this approach pays off handsomely – the chemistry between the leads is so palpable that it hardly needs belabouring, and the director mines the breakneck pace for moments of sublime deadpan humour. And yet, the precision of Pawlikowski’s filmmaking and the exquisite black-and-white cinematography lend the film an air of contrivance, ensuring that the climax isn’t quite as emotionally devastating as it should be.
Cold War | Directed by Paweł Pawlikowski (Poland, France, UK 2018) with Joanna Kulig, Tomasz Kot. Starts November 22.
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