Film Festival Cologne 2018: Cold War Review

By Martha Sigargök-Martin | Features & Reviews

Nov 12

Genre: Drama | Country: Poland | 2018

Written and Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski

Starring: Joanna Kulig, Tomasz Kot, Borys Szyc

Cold War won the award for Best Director in Cannes this year. It also received the Golden Lions Awards at the Gdynia Film Festival. The film is slightly inspired by the director’s parents’ lives. It has also been selected for the next Academy Awards, in the category Best Foreign Language Film.


It’s the Cold War in Poland of the 1950s. The effects of the Second World War are still having a repercussion on the country. Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) is a gifted pianist, auditioning musicians to form a traditional folklore group.

He’s immediately put under the spell of Zula (Joanna Kulig), a singer and free spirit, who comes to an audition. Soon they’re having an affair. But it gets complicated as Wiktor wants to move to Paris.

Cinematography & Editing

Helped by cinematographer Lukasz Zal (Loving Vincent, Ida), director Pawel Pawlikowski chose to edit the whole film in black and white. This technique intensifies the story of the film, set in an oppressive post-war-time, where cities have to rebuild and communism defines the life of millions.

However, despite the willingly cold effect of black and white, most scenes in the movie aren’t bleak. Zal made numerous shots looking like warm portraits.


Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot play two protagonists supposed to have a disparate understanding of life, but they are as harmonious as they can be on screen.

Especially during scenes where hilarious and caustic dialogues are spoken – in that the film has been wonderfully written – the chemistry between both characters is very palpable.


The story of Cold War is nothing exceptional, but the movie shouldn’t be watched for its love story.

What makes this film worth watching is its incongruencies and beautiful cinematography. Cold War is, despite its desolate historical background, funny and acerbic.

One reason that makes this film amusing is its fantastic dialogues written by Pawel Pawlikowski and his colleagues Janusz Glowacki (†) (Der Ausflus, Fliegenjagd) and Piotr Borkowski (Lek wysokosci, Nazywam sie Julita).

The other reason is the actors. Joanna Kulig was fantastic as a free spirit – especially in one particular scene at a party – and Tomasz Kot perfect as the emotionally dulled pianist.

Cold War can be recommended confidently.

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About the Author

Hey! I'm Martha, and I help creative people understanding and solving mental and creative blocks through blog posts about film, series, and creativity, as well as through a creative coaching website ( just dedicated to this topic.