In order to tell an epic tale you don’t necessarily need to have a long runtime. A two hours plus movie doesn’t necessarily grant an approval of being a good film, and yet many filmmakers and Hollywood seem to think the opposite. A compact story and the ability to tell a story in less time are very underappreciated skills today.
Cold War is a Polish film by great Polish auteur Pawel Pawilovski and the story is greatly inspired by the love story of his parents. In the movie Zula (Joanna Kulig) and Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) play two lovers against the backdrop of 1950s Europe.
Pawilovski is one of the greatest working storytellers today; he is able to tell a paused and symbolic film with deep characters in under one hour and thirty minutes. Pawilovski is able to transmit a point in one scene where other filmmakers would need three or four. The romance is achieved with both characters seeking to be independent and yet together; it’s a beautiful clash that Pawilovski revels in. While a more conventional romance might have focused on the good parts of the relationship, Pawilovski searches for the conflict and yet somehow transmits the characters’ need to be with each other.
The script is very restrained, so that every line is crucial to the advancement of the plot, there is nothing thrown to chance. Pawilovski keeps such control of the film and yet allows wild yet nuanced performances from his actors. Joanna Kulig is the true spark of this movie, showing her struggle to try and become an independent woman and Tomasz Kot brings a silent stoicism, trying to restrain the harrowing emotions he’s experiencing.
The short runtime is not to the films detriment at all; the film doesn’t feel rushed, despite tracking our characters from 1949 to 1964. The film is able to have paused moments, showing our characters looking at empty Paris landmarks at night, or the performance of songs, which are central to our characters (they’re both musicians). There is a sense of roundedness that comes from this film, a great balance in every aspect. Even the small intermittent supporting characters who might appear in one scene only are beautifully composed and have a memorable stamp on viewers and the story.
Cold War is a compact and truly wonderful film from Pawilovski. The loving romance is alluring while at the same time tragic. This film is an example of how length is not an indicator to the quality and depth of a film.