Cold War (2018 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Paweł Pawlikowski|
|Edited by||Jaroslaw Kaminski|
|Budget||€4.3 million (~USD$4.8 million)|
|Box office||$20.5 million|
Cold War (Polish: Zimna wojna) is a 2018 historical period drama film directed by Paweł Pawlikowski, who co-wrote the screenplay with Janusz Głowacki and Piotr Borkowski. It is an international co-production by producers in Poland, France and the United Kingdom. Set in Poland and France during the Cold War from the late 1940s until the 1960s, the story follows a musical director (Tomasz Kot) who discovers a young singer (Joanna Kulig), exploring their subsequent love story over the years. The film, which was loosely inspired by the lives of Pawlikowski's parents, also features Borys Szyc, Agata Kulesza, Cédric Kahn and Jeanne Balibar in supporting roles.
Cold War premiered at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival on 10 May 2018. Critics praised its acting, screenplay, direction and cinematography. The film has received numerous accolades, including three nominations at the 91st Academy Awards (Best Foreign Language Film, Best Director and Best Cinematography) and four at the 72nd British Academy Film Awards, including Best Direction and Best Film Not in the English Language.
In post-World War II Poland, Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) and Irena (Agata Kulesza) are holding auditions for a state-sponsored folk music ensemble. Wiktor's attention is immediately captured by Zula (Joanna Kulig), an ambitious and captivating young woman who is faking a peasant identity and is on probation after attacking her abusive father. Wiktor and Zula quickly fall into a deep and obsessive attraction with each other and have sex after a performance. Later, Wiktor and Irena are pressured by bureaucrats to include pro-Communist and pro-Stalinist propaganda in their performances, a decision which would allow the troupe to tour the eastern bloc. Both Wiktor and Irena are opposed to the changes, but the career-driven, opportunistic Kaczmarek (Borys Szyc) agrees to the additions, and a resentful Irena quits. Kaczmarek is also interested in Zula and pressures her into spying on Wiktor for him, but Zula refuses to tell him any incriminating information. When the ensemble visits East Berlin, Wiktor plans to flee to the west with Zula, and the two affirm their love and passion. However, Zula fails to show up at a rendezvous with Wiktor, so he crosses the border alone.
Years later, Zula meets Wiktor in Paris, where he is working at a jazz club. Though they both have other partners, their continued mutual attraction is clear. When Wiktor asks Zula why she failed to appear with him to cross the border, she says she lacked confidence in herself. A year later, Wiktor attends one of the troupe's performances in Yugoslavia, where Zula spots him in the audience and becomes visibly shaken. Two years later, Wiktor is working in Paris as a film score composer, where Zula reunites with him; she has married another man to obtain a visa and be with Wiktor. Wiktor attempts to build a solo career for Zula, including inflating her backstory to appear more interesting to his friend, film producer Michel, at a party, which annoys her. Meanwhile, Zula becomes jealous of Wiktor's past lovers, and as work on her record strains their relationship, she begins to drink heavily and act out in public. Wiktor and Zula finish Zula's record, but a disappointed Zula remains frustrated and unhappy. She reveals that she had an affair with Michel and insults Wiktor, causing him to strike her. She later disappears, and when Wiktor confronts Michel, he reveals she has returned to Poland.
Against the advice of a Polish ambassador in Paris, Wiktor returns to Poland. Zula meets with him at a work camp, where he reveals that he has been sentenced to a "generous" 15 years of hard labor on charges of repeatedly crossing the borders and espionage; his hand has been mangled from torture, ending his musical career. Zula promises to free him. Years later, a freed Wiktor meets with Kaczmarek at a club where Zula, now a barely-functioning alcoholic, is performing. Zula arranged for an early release for Wiktor by agreeing to marry Kaczmarek, and now has a young son with him. Wiktor and Zula escape to a bathroom together, where a miserable and defeated Zula begs Wiktor to rescue her. The two take a bus to an abandoned church seen at the beginning of the film, where they prepare to commit suicide together. After ingesting pills, the couple is seen sitting outside, observing the landscape. Zula suggests they view it "from the other side," and the two stand and depart from view, as wheat fields sway in the wind.
Cold War grossed $4.6 million in the United States and Canada, and $15.9 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $20.5 million.
In the film's opening weekend in the United States it made $54,353 from three theaters, an average of $18,118 per venue. In its sixth weekend of release, following its three Oscar nominations, the film made $571,650 from 111 theaters.
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 92% based on 216 reviews, and an average rating of 8.16/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "With a brilliantly stark visual aesthetic to match its lean narrative, Cold War doesn't waste a moment of its brief running time — and doesn't skimp on its bittersweet emotional impact." Metacritic gives the film a weighted average score of 90 out of 100, based on 45 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".
Giuseppe Sedia of the Krakow Post wrote, "...less hieratic than Ida, Cold War has a lot to offer to the audience. Maybe Pawlikowski would have not won Best Director Award at Cannes if it wasn't for the sumptuous acting displayed in this cruel, jazz-drenched and Mizoguchi-esque tale of two lovers".
- List of submissions to the 91st Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film
- List of Polish submissions for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film
- Opus Film, Polish Film Institute, MK2 Films, Film4, BFI, Protagonist Pictures, Apocalypso Pictures, MK Productions, Eurimages, Arte France Cinéma, Canal+ Poland, Kino Świat, The Lódz Film Fund, Mazovia and Warsaw Film Fund, The Silesian Film Fund, The Podkarpackie Film Fund, Arte France, Aide aux cinémas du monde and the Cinestaan Film Company are all credited as production companies.
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