Cold War (Zimna Wojna)

28/03/2019 19:45.
Cert 15

Musician Wiktor travels around a monochrome snowy landscape with colleague Irena recording regional folk music. When they set up a school to promote Polish culture and tradition, one of those auditioned is Zula, a beauti­ful singer and dancer, who has been in prison for murder. To Irene’s disapproval a passionate affair ensues, which will take Wiktor and Zula across political and personal boundary lines. The soundtrack as the years pass (late 40s to 60s), acts as the backdrop to these significant times in European history. The film won Pawlikowski the 2018 Cannes best director award.

“Whatever they endure, whether separation, betrayal, alcoholism, the ravages of ageing or even imprisonment, they never give in to self-pity. Reflecting the two leads, the film retains a quiet humour throughout.” (Geoffrey Macnab,

Dir: Pawel Pawlikowski  88mins   Pol/Fra/UK 2018

Cold War will be introduced and discussed by Dr Hubert Zawadzki, who added so much to our screening of Ida a couple of seasons ago.   Cold War, incidentally, stars Agata Kulesza (the novice in Ida) and Joanna Kulig (the singer in Ida)

Programme Notes


Tonight’s film is introduced by Hubert Zawadzki, who has visited ABCD to discuss Polish films several times in the last few years. A historian by profession, he most recently (November 2015) gave us background historical information for Pawlikowski’s Ida, which indisputably enriched our appreciation of that film. You may also have seen him on TV interpreting for UK media figures travelling in Poland for their programmes. He is the co-author of a A Concise History of Poland (Cambridge University Press, 2nd edition 2006)

″Tomasz Kot and Joanna Kulig star as Wiktor and Zula, a Polish pianist and singer who meet in the late 1940s at a camp whose aim is to appropriate the country’s traditional songs for the glorification of the socialist state. Across more than fifteen years and at least three countries, we watch as the two are repeatedly separated and re-united by circumstance, their devotion only strengthened by the constant strains” This is the summary of the film with which David Bax starts his review, concluding ″So, Cold War is a story about love”

A little later, he writes ″Their convictions toward one another outshine those they have for Poland, despite what the nation demands of their loyalty. And so, Cold War is a story about politics. Wiktor’s love for Zula doesn’t stop him from escaping to the West on his own when he gets the chance” And because all good things come in threes (four, actually –  see below), he adds ″[…] to some extent, Cold War is a story about art”

And finally: ″Maybe, ultimately, Cold War is a story about faith. All of these things – love, politics, art – require some level of unyielding belief in order to have the effects that they do. The structure Pawlikowski adopts, suddenly leaping forward anywhere from two to five years at a time, illustrates how much some things change while, by returning again and again to head-on shots of Zula in traditional costume singing songs older than she is, comically underlining our inability to accept these ongoing shifts. We forestall change by believing in absolute truths. Mostly, this is folly but, for Wiktor and Zula, their devotion to each other is the one thing in their world not built on sand. I was right the first time. Cold War is a love story”          David Bax,

Joanna Kulig – Zula
Tomasz Kot – Wiktor
Borys Szyc – Kaczmarek
Agata Kulesza – Irena
Cedric Khan – Michel
Jeanne Balibar – Juliette

Director – Pawel Pawlikowski
Producers – Ewa Puszczynska, Tanya Seghatchian + 12 others
Screenplay – Pawel Pawlikowski, Janusz Glowacki
Cinematography – Lukasz Zal
Original Music – Marcin Masecki (jazz, songs, piano)
Editing – Jaroslaw Kaminski



  • An A for Hubert!
  • Best film of the year! Great use of simple, static shots together with the live music
  • A+. I loved the music
  • A masterpiece – packed with elegant cinematography and much empathy for the main characters     and their relationship. Hubert’s talk was full of historical context, which made one appreciate so     much more beyond the (confines of) film
  • Beautiful, existential film. Excellent discussion afterwards
  • A wonderful film, with brilliant atmosphere
  • Totally engrossing and very atmospheric
  • I was impressed by the vitality – especially Zula – in the first part of the film and the pathos later on.     I wondered what would happen after their vows in the church
  • Wonderful music  and very moving. Not quite convinced by the story, though Pilgrim’s Progress – for two!
  • I now realise how little of the Polish politics of that era I actually knew
  • Bewildering  too many ‘swaps’ (flashbacks) but I enjoyed the ‘different’ political backgrounds. Love     is blind but doomed
  • What was with that ending? Why did they do that? Good film, though
  • Too much singing. Viktor wasn’t believable. Did you notice that the trees at the ruined church hadn’t grown in 15 years?


A:17, B:9, C:0, D:0, E:0 to give 91% from 68% of those present.