Q&A at Curzon Mayfair 29 July 2018.
Chaired By Ian Haydn Smith, Editor Curzon Magazine.
POLISH film director Pawel Pawlikowski has triumphed again.
Five years after the astonishing Ida which won a series of awards including an Oscar, the 60-year-old has delivered the stylish Cold War – a film centred around the tortuous, tempestuous, sensual and ultimately sad relationship of pianist Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) and singer Zula (Joanna Kulig).
With a soundtrack embracing everything from Polish folk music through to Bill Haley and the Comets, Cold War oozes cool – all set against the end of the Second World War and the division of Europe into communist East and democratic West. It will leave audiences spellbound when it is released at the end of August – and is bound to win awards to rival those of Ida (Pawlikowski has already won best director award at Cannes 2018 for Cold War).
There are some similarities between the two films. They were shot primarily in Poland, a number of actresses appear in both films – including Kulig and Agata Kulesza – and the director of photography is Lukasz Zal (Ryszard Lenczewski started as director in Ida before Zal took over). They are also both shot in black and white.
Yet as Pawlikowski revealed at a Q&A post a pre-release screening at Curzon Mayfair on Sunday July 29, it was never his intention to shoot Cold War in black and white.
‘I thought of the film in colour first,’ he said. ‘I did not want to repeat myself. I then went through a range of colours – but I could not come up with anything. Nothing felt right. I could have used over saturated or washed out colours but they would not have worked.’ Such colours, he thought at one stage, would reinforce the bleak communist backdrop.
Pawlikowski is nothing but meticulous about his work, quite happy to shoot a scene 25 times in order to get it right. The creation of the film is also an evolving process. ‘What you saw on the film is far away from the script,’ he said. ‘There was much over-writing. It is then a process of distillation with no scenes.’
He admitted the film is loosely based on the experience of his parents whose relationship was as fraught as Wiktor’s and Zula’s – they separated, they made up, they moved countries and they had different partners.
It has been a film some 20 years in the making as Tanya Seghatchian (film producer) confirmed on stage in an answer to a question – proceedings masterfully chaired by the Curzon’s insightful Ian Haydn Smith. She said that a UK version was thought about 15 years ago but it was felt that it would not work in spoken English.
Pawlikowski also said that the film had been far better received in Poland than Ida was five years ago. He explained: ‘Ida came out at a time of political change in Poland and the party that formed the new Government said it blackened the name of Poland. It was anti-Polish. The new Prime Minister and Minister of Culture did not like it, were critical and took it off the schedules. Not totalitarian, just petty.’
He added: ‘But with Cold War, it seems the Government likes it. Maybe it is because of the folk music but the Minister of Culture recently shook my hand.’
Although the film stretches across Europe – Berlin, Paris, Poland and Yugoslavia – most of the filming was done in Poland, complemented with four days of location shots in Paris.
Pawlikowski says Cold War was an ambiguous film title, alluding to the political backdrop and the on off relationship of Wiktor and Zula. He also alluded to the fact that in Germany there had been requests for him to change the title to Latitude of Love or Tears of Time.
Whatever titles are used, Pawlikowskii’s film is a sure fire winner.