Cold War is a passionate love story between a man and a woman who meet in the ruins of post-war Poland. With different backgrounds and temperaments, they are fatally mismatched and yet fatefully condemned to each other. Set against the background of the Cold War in the 1950s in Poland, Berlin, Yugoslavia and Paris, the couple are separated by politics, character flaws and unfortunate twists of fate – an impossible love story in impossible times. Pawlikowski’s most recent film, Ida, was a global success, winning the Oscar and BAFTA for best foreign language film as well as five European Film Awards including best European film, director and screenplay. His other key credits include My Summer Of Love and Last Resort. The film is a Polish/UK/French production, produced by the writer- director’s long time partners Tanya Seghatchian (My Summer of Love) of Apocalypso Pictures and Ewa Puszczyńska (Ida) from Piotr Dzięciol’s Opus Film (Poland), along with France’s MK Productions.
WIKTOR AND ZULA
Cold War is dedicated to Pawel Pawlikowski’s parents, whose names the protagonists share. The real Wiktor and Zula died in 1989, just before the Berlin Wall came down. They had spent the previous 40 years together, on and off, breaking up, chasing and punishing each other on both sides of the Iron Curtain. ‘They were both strong, wonderful people, but as a couple a neverending disaster,’ Pawlikowski reflects. Although, in factual details, the filmmaker’s fictional couple is quite unlike the real one, Pawlikowski has been mulling over ways to tell his parents’ story for almost a decade. How to render all the toing and froing? What to do about the extended period of time? ‘Their life had no obvious dramatic shape,’ he says, and ‘although my parents and I remained very close – I was their only child – the more I thought about them once they were gone, the less I understood them’. Despite the difficulty, he continued to try and fathom the mystery of that relationship. ‘I’ve lived for a long time and seen a lot, but my parents’ story put all the other ones in the shadow. They were the most interesting dramatic characters I’ve ever come across.’ Eventually, in order to write the film, he had to make it not about his parents. The shared traits became very general: ‘temperamental incompatibility, not being able to be together, and yearning when you’re apart’; ‘the difficulty of life in exile, of staying yourself in a different culture’; ‘the difficulty of life under a totalitarian regime, of behaving decently despite the temptations not to’. The result is a strong, stirring story broadly inspired, as Pawlikowski puts it, by his parents’ ‘complicated and disrupted love’