Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski’s latest film, Cold War, chronicles—stopping just short of celebrating—an affair that blazes across a postwar European landscape already strewn with too many ashes, and grimly divided by the Iron Curtain and closing borders. The attraction is immediate when Zula (Joanna Kulig) and Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) first meet in 1949 rural Poland. He’s a refined composer and musicologist in his 40s, chafing under Stalinism as he catalogs traditional folk songs and auditions performers for a new touring folk troupe. She is one of the hopefuls, a vibrant 20-something scrapper determined to escape her dead-end lower-class origins. They are mismatched in terms of temperament, sensibility, pragmatism, ethics, and drive, but their sexual connection is so strong that their liaison survives her first betrayal (when she spies on him for a Communist party climber) and the many other disputes and recriminations that follow throughout their 15-year-long on-again, off-again relationship. Their tempestuous union, their ceaseless longing for each other—even when, out of expedience, they enter different partnerships—puts them in the company of such mad lovers in Romantic literature as Catherine and Heathcliff in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights and the obsessed suitor in Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther. CONTINUE READING