EIFF: Cold War review - Joanna Kulig sets chilly miniature epic ablaze
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Verdict: This tale of passionate, fragmented romance set against a backdrop of Cold War Europe is a work of haunting beauty. Paweł Pawlikowski’s beautiful miniature epic Cold War begins in 1949 with musicians Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) and Irena (Agata Kulesza) trawling through the icy Polish countryside, looking to form a national troupe of traditional folk music talent. At an audition – sort of like an Eastern Bloc version of The Voice – Wiktor’s eye is caught by competitor Zula (Joanna Kulig), an enigmatic but self-assured young woman with a reciprocating eye cast on Wiktor. Zula isn’t anything like the authentic rural singers she auditions with – she’s from the city, and the tune she performs is taken from a Russian film she saw as a girl. A suspicious and jealous Irene tries to warn Wiktor off, claiming Zula is on parole for a familial act of violence (“My father mistook me for my mother and I showed him the difference,” she states indifferently). But it’s too late: Wiktor and Zula have fallen for each other, and commence a passionate, tempestuous love affair. Fast forward a few years and the folk ensemble is a sensation, touring across Europe. When the Communist government inevitably ‘encourages’ the inclusion of some verses about agricultural reform in their repertoire, Wiktor sees a trip to Berlin as an opportunity for himself and Zula to slip under the Iron Curtain.
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