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  • Chandra Ingram

"Euphoric. Romantic. Remarkable." Cold War Review

Cold War is a complicated story, made so simple—a heavy plot made weightless. The producers didn’t dwell on the drama. If you weren’t paying attention you might miss it. The film was confident, like it knew it was remarkable. With quick cuts and sudden silences, the production kept you on your toes. Beginning with pictorial history and culture, then broken up by foreign folk songs and harmonizing choruses, at first one might not notice the romantic relationship developing.

The film opens in rural, icy Poland in 1949, where two locals are recording original folk songs throughout the country for their Polish folk musical group. The plot advances through a love affair: an elusive composer and effervescent young singer meet during an audition. Their relationship then follows the very real consequences of the Iron Curtain post World War II over 15 years across Europe. But the plot feels all but political.

Eventually, the lovers are separated by forces larger than themselves. Mazurek, their increasingly popular music group—based on the real Polish folk collective Mazowsze—is coopted by the Communist government, transformed against Irena’s objections (“The rural population doesn’t sing about land reform”) into just another arm of the Soviet propaganda machine.

The characters are so raw that the story becomes real, personal. Zula, while daring and ambitious, is also complicated in her vulnerability. She transforms throughout the movie, yet stays peculiarly the same as when we first meet her. Zula’s edge allows her to stand out from the others, and the fight in her keeps helplessly bringing her back to her one true love. The camerawork attaches you, watching her, staring into her eyes. Similarly, Wictor’s irrepressible allure keeps you rooting for him and what seems, his impossible love. The efforts they take to be with one another are reduced to mere moments, as if nothing. The characters captivate you with their obscurity. The two rarely speak. Their acting feels effortless.

The plot revolves around their romantic relationship but doesn’t forget to hint at important historical context either. The tensions between nations and cultures. The children reduced to mere stereotypes of provincial folk.

Parts of the film are euphoric. Half of the film is watching the film audience react to the performances. An inexplicable bliss and contempt falls over you. When they react with a simple grin or a smile, you envelop their pride with them. The shots are unique, steering away from the traditional rule of thirds. The camera becomes the lens through which the lovers see each other. Their love story is told in angles and expressions rather than words. Other times the camera purposely fails to direct you to the main face or action on the screen, instead keeping you searching until you find it yourself. The shots, however, give enough information to experience the aura, or tension, or mood.

The discolored pictures can only be described as crisp and somehow vibrant in their detail. Yet the film’s extravagance drew from the voices filling the theater. The actors’ and actresses’ intonations tasted fluid, but bit hard with annunciation.

For a fairly simple plot, the movie flew by and ended at a sudden stop. Literally, the final scene for a moment appeared a still photograph. But it worked. The film came full circle. There were a few awkward pauses, but the movie filled with eloquent vocals and gaudy dances. The mixture of languages was beautiful, adding onto it a new level of aesthetic. You might not leave the theater feeling your life has changed or been altered in anyway, but the movie Cold War leaves a lasting impression and inspires an innovational construction of narrative.

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