Review by Dash Wilson.
One of the true surprises from this year’s Academy Award nominations for the year’s best cinematography was not only that two of these films were foreign, but also shot entirely in black and white.
Written and directed by Polish filmmaker Paweł Pawlikowski (Ida, Summer of Love) Cold War is the tale of a musical director who discovers a beautiful young singer. Loosely inspired by Pawlikowski’s parents and set during the Cold War, Wiktor (Thomas Kot) and Zula (Joanna Kulig) fall deeply, obsessively and destructively in love. In the ruins of a post-war Poland, they are forced to play into the communist propaganda machine that surrounds them while they dream of escaping to the creative freedom of the West.
With a miniscule production budget of five million pounds and a current box office take of almost twenty million, there is no doubt that Cold War has become a resounding success. Premiering at the Cannes Film Festival in 2018, Cold War is a stunningly shot film that deserves to be seen. Working with his cinematographer from Ida, Łukasz Żal PSC, Pawlikowski has created a brilliantly gloomy and stark visual aesthetic that brings to life an otherwise lean narrative. Shot digitally using a 1.37:1 aspect ratio, the last minute decision to shoot in black and white has been a masterstroke. All you can do is marvel at how Żal and Pawlikowski have used the films visual style to truly invoke the feeling of the period and the location.
Performance wise, the two leads are also uniformly excellent. Even with its brief running time, the film is thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish and at times, highly emotional. If I was to be critical it would be that I found some of the characters actions a little over-dramatic and some of the plot lines a little cliché. Ultimately though, while it may not be Schindler’s List, if you do like your cinema a little different and appreciate a sumptuous visual treat, then you can’t go past Cold War.
Reviewing all five films nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography in 2019, Dash Wilson is a film-lover based in Brisbane and is the resident Film Critic for Australian Cinematographer Magazine.