It’s not often that I can review a Polish movie for our English-speaking audience so of course, I’ll use this opportunity to comment on the Polish romance movie “Cold War” that was an Oscars 2019 nominee for Best Foreign Language Film.
“Cold War” was directed by Paweł Pawlikowski whose movie “Ida” won an Oscar in the same category in 2015. Both movies are black and white and both have strong historical settings, at the same time managing to tell a universal story. Here, however, the similarities end. “Ida”, I think, is excellent. “Cold War” is not.
It all starts off well. One of the best young Polish actors, Tomasz Kot, plays Wiktor who’s looking for new stars for a music folk ensemble. Zula, played by charming and beautiful Joanna Kulig, catches his attention during the audition. They hit it off immediately. Their romance, as anything else in Poland of that time, is flavoured with the political climate. It doesn’t help that they come from different backgrounds and are very different people…
Sounds interesting? I thought so too. The movie is topped off with a good Polish and international cast in secondary roles, beautiful scenes, poignant dialogues and great music. And yet, all these thing don’t help because the love story is melodramatic, hardly credible and difficult to relate to. There were points when I was watching the movie really irritated with the main characters. Their behaviours made often little to no sense and they themselves were not well-constructed. Even their chemistry was questionable. I will not tell you what happens at the end, but really, it’s one of the weirdest, most illogical endings I’ve ever seen.
The redeeming quality of the movie is that it’s only 88 minutes long so the experience is at least short. It did make me wonder, however, how can a film turn out to be such a disappointment with all the right elements in place. I cannot, for instance, deny the director’s talent because it’s obvious in the movie. Some scenes are simply beautifully planned and executed. One doesn’t see often shots like this in the modern cinema. Similarly, the acting is great and the choice of actors for their roles seemed good. On paper… I think that it’s the plot and the characters that make it all go to sh*t. I felt unfair giving the movie 7 out of 10 on Polish IMDB (Filmweb) but given its shortcomings I couldn’t give rate it at more than that.
Another reflection that I had after watching “Cold War” was that the 2019 Oscars had to deal with the weakest movies in years and that goes for all categories. Of the nominated movies many were just a display of calculated mediocracy to please the crowd and the Academy. My personal favourites of 2018 were: “BlackkKlansman”, “The Favourite”, “Vice”, “The Wife” and “Black Panther”. I’m looking forward to see what the year 2019 has to offer!
Should you watch “Cold War”? If you have an interest in European cinema and you’re tired of mainstream blockbusters or you like Polish history, definitely. Otherwise, you may as well do something else in the 88 minutes needed to watch it.
What did you think about this year’s Oscar season? What was your favourite movie of 2018?