Cold War (Zimna wojna) - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Cold War (Zimna wojna) Reviews

Page 1 of 6
May 2, 2019
A one-star rating means I just didn't care for the movie (as much as I wanted to). Many have put this movie over Roma, but for me personally Roma was definitely the more well-constructed and impactful film. The main problem here is Pawlikowski trying to put so many gaps in his story on purpose. After the first 30 minutes, which I actually thought proceeded quite well, the movie overall just felt really abrupt. They finally meet up in Paris after so long and then suddenly the guy's like a whole different person, and then suddenly they're both back in Poland, and then they hate each other and somehow they reconcile yet again and get married? The girl even chose not to follow him in defecting at first, but then she decides otherwise, but very suddenly. With all of these narrative gaps that totally disengaged me from the story and didn't really bring about any character development, I ended up very unfortunately not buying the intensity of this romance caught up in a giant war. I can see Pawlikowski trying to integrate some themes of nationalism, political allegiances, and the role of art as propaganda, but even with the beautiful black and white and the electrifying chemistry between Kot and Kulig, me not being able to hold back a "That's it?" at the ending says it all.
April 24, 2019
Aesthetically perfect, narratively frustrating

Reading around some of the reviews of Zimna wojna [Cold War], I recognise that this should have been a film I liked, as so much of what critics are praising are exactly the kinds of things I myself often look for in a film. Indeed, I freely acknowledge there's a huge amount to praise here, with elements of the mise en scene borderline genius. However, all the aesthetic brilliance in the world doesn't hide what, for me, is its single greatest flaw - I just didn't care about the two main characters, and I didn't buy their relationship. I'm aware that emotional detachment is exactly what it was going for, and it's probably unfair to criticise a film for successfully doing what it intended to do, but when it ended, all I could think was "meh." Although, to be fair, that may say more about myself than the film.

Written by Pawel Pawlikowski, Janusz Glowacki, and Piotr Borkowski, and directed by Pawlikowski, the film begins in Poland in 1949, two years since a communist government came to power. Composer and pianist Wiktor (Tomasz Kot), his ethnomusicologist producer Irena (Agata Kulesza), and state-sponsored overseer Kaczmarek (Borys Szyc) are travelling through rural communities attempting to find recruits for a folk music school. Wiktor is bored out of his mind, until a young woman named Zula (Joanna Kulig) auditions. Although she doesn't fit the profile of what they are looking for, Wiktor argues that she has "something different." Soon enough, he and Zula are in a relationship. The rest of the film takes place over 20 years and four countries (Poland, France, Yugoslavia, and East Germany), but it never branches out from the central relationship.

To begin with some aspects which I liked. The film's aesthetic is absolutely unparalleled, as Pawlikowski and director of photography Lukasz Zal shoot in Academy ratio (1.37:1), which has the effect of confining the characters within the frame. The nature of the film lends itself to sweeping vistas and cityscapes captured in anamorphic (2.39:1), but, instead, Pawlikowski and Zal use the box-like nature of the Academy frame to trap the characters, who don't seem free even when standing in the vast open countryside.

Another example of the film's extraordinary mise en scene is the opening shot, where shallow focus creates a depth of field so small that the village behind the in-focus singers is completely flattened. This renders it visually inaccessible, and thus compels the audience to concentrate fully on the foreground singers. Compare this with the scene where Kaczmarek is giving a speech extolling the glory of the state, all the while a cow is wandering around in the mud behind him. The use of a deeper focus here means that the cow falls within the larger depth of field, and can be clearly seen, once again directing the audience's attention, only this time that attention is directed away from the foreground character as opposed towards him (an, of course, the cow is an important metaphorical element).

So, why did I not enjoy it? At the end of the day, this is a romance. But it doesn't work as a romance. Yes, it's not what you would call a standard romance by any means, the character motivations and justifications that you'd see in other narratives of this ilk are absent, and maybe because of that, although there was undeniable chemistry between the leads, I just didn't buy their insatiable desire for one another. The problem is, the same thing happens about five times - they meet, have a great time, argue over something, and one runs off. And even at only 85 minutes, this kind of structural repetition becomes, well, repetitive.

These are two people who have precious little respect for one another; beneath all the eroticism and physical attraction, they are simply two irreparably damaged people trying to save one another, living with a co-dependency, but instead hastening each other towards destruction. And as I couldn't buy into the believability of the romance, the entire enterprise floundered. And although the end is very well done, and the last line is spectacular, it left me unmoved, because, by that stage, I just didn't care. True, the structure of the film and the tight editing means that events in their lives are glanced at rather than lingered over, so the kind of nuances and character beats you'd expect are absent. By design, the film is barren and emotionally impenetrable, and in that sense, Pawlikowski seems to have been attempting to construct as detached a narrative as he possibly could. If anything, he succeeds too well.
½ April 23, 2019
Pawel Pawlikowski's doomed romantic drama looks gorgeous in black and white, with its perfect period recreation (1950s Poland and Paris) and melancholy jazz score. Tomasz Kot plays Wiktor, the musical leader of a Polish folk music troupe, presenting peasant songs and dances (astonishingly performed) in a theatre setting across Eastern Europe. Joanna Kulig plays Zula, a young girl with a somewhat dire past who pushes herself into the troupe and becomes one of its stars. Soon, they have fallen in love (despite his other relationship) and their (moderate) age difference. When the Stalinist regime begins to impose itself on the troupe's repertoire, Wiktor plans an escape to the West (when on tour in Berlin) and Zula commits to join him...but does not. Years go by but their love does not diminish and eventually they are reunited in Paris. But happiness is not to be. The film really captures a certain mood, a haunting feeling arising from obsessive love between two damaged people. Pawlikowski keeps us on the outside, letting us view the characters' actions but not always revealing their thoughts or motivations (although often we can infer them easily enough). The plot moves forward rather elliptically, spanning from 1949 to 1964, and we are often surprised by the changes that time renders. The dazzling cinematography (by Lukasz Zal) also contains a number of beautiful and surprising shots (e.g., we don't realise that a couple is standing in front of a mirror rather than in the middle of a crowd until someone walks up to them). Indeed, the word "arthouse" fits the film like a glove, as it feels like a wonderful, sad, nostalgic, work of art. It's dedicated to the director's parents whose own relationship apparently bears some similarities to the onscreen romance. Highly recommended!
April 19, 2019
Not my jam, felt like homework
½ April 17, 2019
Even though the film is outstanding in its visual side and equally impressive is its musical side, I was dissatisfied with the story. It's too 'hollywood' and looks unauthentic in the background of the cold war; with all their moving here and there, from the east to the west, like it was a taxi ride; and his getting 15 years was treated as a trivial thing. In overall the story just didn't fit in the historical background for me, but the technical side is undoubtedly superb: for this alone the film deserves praise.
½ April 11, 2019
Oh boy, I may be kicked out of some groups for this one lol. So I had really built this one up in my head. I really wanted to like it, especially after not being blown away by Roma. This was going to be my savior so to speak. Unfortunately it just failed to blow me away, especially for another foreign submission that extended its reach out of the one category.

Now, that being said I will admit the cinematography was BEAUTIFUL! That brings up another issue for me though, so Roma was was beautiful, and so was this. I found out that their used to be a color and B/W category for cinematography in the Oscars. Obviously since B/W films lost their popularity, that went away. However I think in this day and age that it may be easier to make a film look good in B/W. I don't know, just something to think about.

The film itself was very slow moving in the beginning, and almost felt rushed at the end. Again with an ending that left you hanging so to speak. It kind of reminded me of a condensed version of the Befoe trilogy. (more in terms of the weird time jumps than the film itself).

I wasn't impressed with Joanna Kulig to start with, she did redeem herself toward the 2nd/3rd act. Tomasz Kot left me less than impressed throughout though.

So far I still think Shoplifters was my favorite foreign film that I've seen of the nominees so far(and unfortunately it probably doesn't stand a shot in the dark!)
April 6, 2019
The cinematography in this film is stunning. The story isn't quite up to that standard, sometimes feeling oddly slow as it tries to cover a great deal of ground in 90 minutes.
April 6, 2019
The expressions on every face, especially the leads...perfection
March 28, 2019
Ok but nothing special for Blobbo. (Blobbo no like ending, either.)
March 26, 2019
They don't make movies like this anymore. Gorgeous cinematography. Loved the use of "reflections", at least three times. BTW I saw it a seconfd time, when it deepened my empathy for her more. I had no idea how every line of dialogue when they are in Paris holds such meaning
March 24, 2019
Fantastic film, well worth your time
Super Reviewer
½ March 24, 2019
Pawlikowski's wisely makes this about more than just a doomed romance, evidenced by the recurring Polish folk song, which is gradually filtered and transformed by various people and ideologies.
March 23, 2019
Should have won Best Foreign Language Film.
March 23, 2019
complicated and powerful story, i like how the historical background is presented here. but for the love story itself, sometimes it's not that consistent, and it can also be a bit more romantic.
½ March 21, 2019
It is an unrealistic novel, although the music is good
March 20, 2019
a very unique love story. sadly this movie didn't win any oscar.
March 17, 2019
Cold War es el Climax de un esteta como Pawel Pawlikowski que diluye una historia de amor en una perfecta propuesta musicalizada ,Con en el corazon de la guerra fria activo este magnifico relato deja un aire de crudeza y encanto en el espectador.
½ March 17, 2019
A Beatiful love history, with a excellent direction and cinematografy and a heart breaking end.
March 8, 2019
A well made reflection of the aspirations of post war Poland, as embodied in the leading characters. The conflict between the need for stability, the yearning for freedom, the fear of tyranny and the realization of failure. All expressed in the tumultuous relationship between a peasant girl and a pre-war intellectual. The conflict seen here is a metaphor for the issues that not only plagued the Warsaw pact countries, but are intrinsic in the conflict between populism and the intellectual paradigms governing the current EU. The resolution presented marks a foreboding future for the issues plaguing Europe since the end really of the First World War.
Page 1 of 6