- Colin Fraser
FOUR AND A HALF STARS Stars collide when a musician falls for his student in post-war Poland.
Joanna Kulig, Tomasz Kot
PERIOD DRAMA FOREIGN LANGUAGE #COLDWAR
Poland of the 1950’s was not a place for true romantics, at least according to Pawel Pawlikowski (IDA). And it’s that simple, stark reality, that bleak background which makes his soaring love story such powerful cinema. Although the Cold War had drained occupied Poland of romance, it couldn’t slow the fatefully mismatched attraction that blossomed between a music teacher and his student. It took them from the folk halls of their native country through jazz bars in Berlin and Paris to the Soviet gulags. It was a love with the power of ruin and salvation; an impossible love in an impossible time.
Like IDA and this years other must-see epic ROMA, Pawlikowski shoots in monochrome yet with such intensity the blacks and whites take on a multi-coloured palate of their own. Frame after frame he imbues the story with a striking beauty that reinforces the fiery passion at the heart of the couple's relationship: he’s introspective, she’s tempestuous, he’s considered, she considers everything. For the next fifteen years, even as life determines to keep them apart, even as they conspire to remain together, when they’re fighting noisily or even in the bleakest, quietest moments (and there are many), COLD WAR remains an eerily beautiful experience.
While politics lurks in the background - from opening scenes in a war ravaged country or later at the East German border - Pawlikowski keeps his gaze on his compromised lovers. It’s a film about intersection, the point where differences meet, where bodies meet, where lives meet; for better or for worse. Less than ninety minutes later, COLD WAR will have found the point where film and audience meet, and found a way to leave a mark on your own heart.