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Cold War

Two lovers battle nearly impossible odds to reconnect from opposite sides of the Iron Curtain

© Amazon Studios Set against the backdrop of the 1950s Cold War in Poland, two lovers are separated by the Iron Curtain. Zula (Joanna Kulig) thrives as a singer but is a slave to communist officials. Composer Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) lives in freedom and obscurity.
     After World War II, Poland is a wrecked nation trying to regroup under Soviet occupation. To remind his countryfolk of their cultural greatness, composer Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) sponsors a trip into the country to learn about traditional folk music and dance. With government agent Kaczmarek (Borys Szyc), he forms a folk arts troop celebrating Polish traditions. 
      The star of the show is young Zula (Joanna Kulig), a singer with secrets. Zula and Wiktor’s clandestine affair develops into love. Yet her passionate, dramatic nature clashes with his quiet, reflective manner. Their contentious relationship stokes the show’s success. 
      The Soviets are not fans of traditional Polish art; they want songs and dances that celebrate Stalin and the glory of communism. Wiktor recoils at passing off Soviet propaganda as Polish culture, while Kaczmarek is eager to earn favor with the Stalinist regime. 
     Wiktor’s way out is to defect to the West. He begs Zula to join him, but the plan goes awry and they are separated by the Iron Curtain.
     Can Wiktor and Zula overcome a massive geopolitical standoff? Or are some problems bigger than love? 
      Grandly romantic, politically savvy and beautifully acted, Cold War is a sweeping love story. Director Pawel Pawlikowski (Ida) brilliantly combines stories of cultures and people torn apart by the Cold War. It’s an astoundingly layered work, made even more impressive by clocking in at under 90 minutes.
       Cutting between freewheeling Paris and the sparse landscapes of Soviet-occupied Poland, Pawlikowski shows the effects the Iron Curtain had on Europe. The story continues in segments as the years go by. Zula thrives as a singer but is a slave to government officials. Wiktor lives in freedom and obscurity. Both long for the other but can’t cope with the realities of living together in either Poland or France.
      Pawlikowski uses a Polish folk song as his metaphor for how their relationship evolves. As Zula matures, so does her performance. The song goes from a childish rendition of a love song to a deeply felt torch song expressive of both the joy and pain of love. It’s a fascinating evolution that will have you Googling Polish folk music.
       Showing Zula’s maturation from ambitious girl to an alcoholic star, Kulig offers a fine performance. 
      Kot has a less showy role, for Wiktor’s journey is more internal. Still, his subtle, nuanced performance is a grand counterpoint to Kulig’s Zula.
     Cold War is a great love story compressed in time. It’s worth the trip to track down this gem. 
Great Drama • R • 89 mins.
 
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