The main selling point here, in my opinion, is clearly the cinematography. Like Ida, Cold War was shot in the boxy 4:3 ratio and in crisp, high contrast black and white. I especially enjoyed the snow scenes with blindingly stark white that looks almost otherworldly. Also, the camera movements and framing are always precise.
This style perfectly matches with the bleak environments the film takes place in. The characters are often given lots of headroom and placed in the lower half of the frame, which fits with their oppressive surroundings.
As far as the narrative goes, it’s pretty sparse and simple. The episodic story is about a romance that begins in communist Poland in 1949. The film jumps a year or two at a time, spans multiple countries, and ends up in the mid-1960s. Major events happen offscreen and there are really no important subplots or supporting characters. What happens during the time jumps is hardly spoonfed to the audience and cause and effect is loose at best, which some may find frustrating.
The two leads are named after the director’s parents as well as loosely based on them, so this is clearly a very personal story. Their romance is tender, but never sappy or cliche.
There’s no traditional score or non-diegetic music, but folk music and dancing play a large role and we get extended performances of both.
The acting is fantastic, especially from the magnetic Joanna Kulig as Zula.
Cold War is relatively short for an art house film at only 85 minutes so it may be accessible for those new to this type of cinema. There are a few moments of humor, but generally, it’s quite serious.
Overall, I don’t have any criticisms of the film. I definitely recommend to this anyone who has an appreciation for art house film or cinematography.
Cold War has a strongly positive Rotten Tomatoes rating of 93 percent.