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Monday, 1 October 2018


I am not writing this as a seasoned film critic, or even as someone with much knowledge at all about film. Rather, I am writing as a not-unintelligent person who spent a sizeable chunk of money to see a film during his leisure time. (Actually, my wife spent the money, but the point still stands - money was spent in the hope of being entertained.) I should also warn you that there may well be spoilers in what I am about to say.

Cold War (directed by Pawel Pawlikovski) has been incredibly well reviewed. My wife sold it to me on the basis that it has earned a slew of five star write ups, from the likes of The Guardian and Time Out. “Come with me to see this black-and-white Polish film”, she said. And despite the reservations that this automatically fostered in my mind, I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt.

The film spans the Fifties, and centres on the romance between Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) and Zula (Joanna Kulig). Wiktor is a composer and pianist, and Zula in a peasant girl who has been plucked from obscurity to perform traditional Polish songs as part of a troupe in veneration of Stalin. Reference is made near the beginning to Zula’s having murdered her father, but other than this neither character has any sort of back story, or any other kind of meat on their bones. There is nothing about either of them to suggest I should give a toss one way or another what happens. These are not characters; they are simulacra.

We do not see Wiktor and Zula fall in love, so we do not encounter the thrill of the chase that this might have engendered. Instead we get two ‘characters’ who go back and forth across the Iron Curtain, periodically popping into each other’s lives and sleeping with each other. Wiktor defects to France, Zula follows, then Zula goes back, and Wiktor follows, and so on, in a merry dance of utter pointlessness. We know nothing of either character’s motivation, or even of their personality. They may as well be very, very, very good-looking mannequins. The final scene is ambiguous: we see Wiktor and Zula in a ruined cathedral, pledging vows to each other before apparently committing suicide with an overdose of pills, and then we see them sitting on a bench together. Is this the afterlife? Are they still waiting for the pills to work? Is this a flashback? Do I really care? Zula ends by saying something like “let’s go across the river, the view is better over there.” This obviously mirrors their journey across the international borders, and perhaps across the river Styx into the afterlife. But metaphors alone can’t keep me interested on a Saturday night.

It has to be said that the camera work is often sumptuous. We get really atmospheric shots. I don’t know anything about cinematography so I can’t really say anything clever about it, but the visuals seemed really good. But you know what? In the words of the philosopher Shania Twain, “That don’t impress me much”. It is like being given a birthday present wrapped in beautiful paper, but with nothing inside. Some people do indeed see films purely for the special effects, but those are not my kind of people.

So, to conclude my first ever foray into the world of film reviews, I’ve give Cold War 2 out of 5. It is mercifully short, and the camerawork was nice, but it was BORING SNORING. Next!


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