CREDIT: Łukasz Żal

This review was originally published on News Cult in December 2018.

Starring: Joanna Kulig, Tomasz Kot

Director: Paweł Pawlikowski

Running Time: 85 Minutes

Rating: R for Well-Lit Black & White Sexual Content

Release Date: December 21, 2018 (Limited)

If you watch enough films of a wide enough variety, at certain points you will encounter moments or even entire stories that go beyond your sphere of recognition. At those instances, it is best to accept what you do not understand and trust your emotional response as much as you can. This is a prelude to my reaction to the Polish film Cold War, which I enjoyed, even though I am not sure I followed everything that happened, despite the fact that the structure of the narrative was fairly straightforward. This sense of remove is most likely attributable to a different language, and a different historical era other than my own. Nevertheless, I kept track of the plot’s broad strokes, and I believe that I got this film on an emotional level, or at the very least, it spoke to me in a way that I am still feeling weeks later even if I cannot quite articulate that feeling in words.

The story takes place, appropriately enough, during the Cold War of the 20th century, specifically in 1950s Poland. Zula (Joanna Kulig, who’s 36 but could pass for ten years younger) is a young singer who finds herself on a professional and romantic ride with musical director Wiktor (Tomasz Kot, who’s 41 and could not pass for much less). As the days go by and they traverse across Europe, they grow closer but also fall apart. Both are affected in various ways by the sweet smell of a potential new life, while neither is able to escape the lingering pull of their original home. There is a growing sense that the two are coming into their own and more willing and able to directly reveal their emotions, Zula especially. Much of the film’s soundtrack consists of reserved classical pieces, but an invigorating climax is reached when Zula bounces around a nightclub to the tune of “Rock Around the Clock” with total abandon. That is the type of cinematic moment when I know for sure that the magic is happening even if I am not sure of anything else.

Cold War is Recommended If You Like: Sprawling European Romances

Grade: 4 out of 5 Rocks Around the Clock