Love is Cold (Film Thoughts: Cold War)

Cold_War-793668067-largeIt’s Christmas Day, so what better to celebrate than write about a film about doomed love? ‘Cold War’ is Poland’s entry for Best Foreign Film this year, and because its closest rival, ‘Roma’ (from Mexico) is being elevated, this film has been garnering a lot of attention.

And of course I loved this film – a love story that is big, bold, not necessarily unrequited but nevertheless doomed. It’s a hot mess situation from the very beginning, and it only gets to be a bigger mess as it perseveres through decades. It’s unruly, undisciplined, but at the same time, that makes it more seeped in passion – this big ‘thing’ that never quite makes it, until it flames out in a way that it does, and then it doesn’t.

Written and directed by Pawel Pawiloski, the film is inspired by his parent’s love story, and he even names his characters after them – Zula Lichon (Joana Kulig, smoldering in the best possible way) and Wiktor Warski (Thomas Kot, slow burn simmering)  – lovers who first meet in post-war Poland. They start a clandestine love affair and for years and ears after, they just can’t quit each other. While I was watching it, there was a part of me that became exasperated with the two characters – how much is enough, really – but as I thought about it more, I realized that it was intentional as the story wanted us to experience how it felt being in the middle of that relationship. And there’s a great jazz vocal element in the film – Zula records one while she is living in Paris, and the songs and her performance of them are swoon-worthy. Shot in glorious black in white, the film feels like old-fashioned romance, and it feels it. Once upon a time, when I was a full-pledged hopeless romantic, I probably would have lapped this film whole. Now that I am older and bitter, I can still see the beauty in it, but with a lot of reservations.

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