A film that might have initially not been on your radar this awards season is Pawel Pawlikowski’s epic romance Cold War. The black and white film from Poland suddenly was part of the awards conversation when it snagged three Academy Award nominations: Best Foreign Film, Best Cinematography and Best Director for Pawlikowski. Loosely based on his own parents, Cold War is a gorgeously heartbreaking story of a young singer Zula (Joanna Kulig) discovered by a music director Wiktor (Tomasz Kot). The two begin a fiery affair that spans a decade in a politically crumbling Europe.
When Kulig first comes on screen, try to tear away your eyes from her. She makes playing firecracker Zula look effortless — although it wasn’t. Playing Zula took both a lot of emotional and physical work from Kulig. Throughout the film, she dances and sings, fights and loves — both of which the cast extensively trained for. She had to take voice and dance lessons to prepare for the amount of song and dance that she does in the film and if you’ve seen it, you’ll know the scenes of Kulig singing and dancing are more than worth the labor that she put into them.
They spent about a year preparing for the film. And while the shoot was demanding, at times shooting scenes 20 to 30 times, Kulig says it was a very creative and wonderful set with the “painter” like Pawlikowski. And Pawlikowski took a similarly arduous approach in establishing the relationship between Kulig and Kot’s characters. “We had a lot of rehearsals because Pawel [would] change the script. We had a lot of conversations about our characters and how to build this relationship between Wiktor [Kot] and Zula. Step by step, we’d start to be our characters and shot chronologically and that’s why it was much easier to be this character. From the beginning of rehearsing to the end of shooting was one year and it was so intense.”
And the end results are worth all the work Kulig put into the role — it’s an incredible breakout and hopefully the beginning of future collaborations with Pawlikowski. Before that happens, Kulig will be working on a film with her husband, screenwriter and director Maciej Bochniak, this summer. She’s really excited about the reception that Cold War has received and even when EW talked to her before the film was nominated for its Academy Awards, Kulig was still struck by how it had changed everything. “I never thought that this part and this movie would be such a huge success and it’s a very special moment in my life.”
Cold War will be available to stream on Amazon Prime on March 22nd.