[This article was originally written as an assignment for my degree.]
What follows is a transcript of an interview I had with Renata Kozub, a Polish citizen living in the UK. This is her response to COLD WAR and my questions I had regarding the film and it’s themes.
Nick: So, I asked you to watch COLD WAR, a Polish film from 2018. 80 minutes long, black and white. Do you have any initial thoughts on the actual film itself?
Renata: Yeah, it was rubbish.
N: You didn’t like it?
N: Can I ask why you didn’t like it?
R: It had no sense at all. It started on thing creating a, what was it, a folk band. And then just, just left it behind and went with the romance. I don’t like it. [Laughs]
N: You didn’t like the romance at all?
R: No. No, it was so bad. Like, when they met up after a few years, and he was like “Are you married?”, and she’s like “Oh, yeah! But YOLO, I’m here anyway”. It was just like… [Laughs again]
N: Okay. So you didn’t particularly like the film? Did you not like how the romance developed over the period of time? The fact that it took place over certain years and eras?
R: Yeah, no. Didn’t like that.
N: Didn’t like it.
R: No. Didn’t like that they were like, “Yeah, I am just with someone else but I am still gonna meet you.” It was so bad.
N: OK. That’s OK. What did you think about the ending?
R: The ending? Let me think about it. [Pause] What was the ending?
N: They meet up.
R: Oh yeah! They took some pills.
N: So she says to him, “Oh, lets go to the other side. There’s a better view.” So they walk off camera. The camera stays where it is, it shows the wheat-fields, and then there is a gust of wind and then it cuts to black. What did you think that ending meant?
R: I didn’t get it. I thought they were gonna die, but they didn’t die. I didn’t know how it finished. No, how did it finish?
N: …it wasn’t obvious to you that they died?
R: No. So they did die?
N: Well it is implied by the ending that they died, so yeah.
R: Yeah, no. I have to have it said (explicitly) [Laughs] I want to talk about the music, I liked that.
N: We will, just want to cover a few other things first. I am assuming that you and Chris, had it on with subtitles?
R: Oh, yes.
N: Were there any instances where the subtitles didn’t match with what was being said? That you noticed? Anything obvious?
R: Yeah, I noticed a few things that they said differently. But I don’t remember, which one was it. It was just some stuff that, they kinda changed the meaning of what they were saying. But I don’t remember what was it exactly. At some point I said to Chris, “Actually they said that, not this.” But they always do that in movies, so, they always change it. But yeah, not often but there were a few bits that they didn’t translate like they said.
N: OK, Is that an issue with the Polish language being translated into English. That there are different meanings to different words?
R: No, they just skipped some of the parts. and they (subtitles) just said it just easier and simpler.
N: So there was stuff literally missed out in translation?
R: Yeah, but it wasn’t a big impact.
N: OK. One of the things I wanted to ask you about, because you are Polish, is that I wanted to get you opinions on it’s portrayal of certain issues that are specific to somebody from Poland. So, first off so the ideas around Religion. The character Zula, is a Catholic. Was there anything specific in her, or in the film, that speaks to Catholicism in Poland?
R: I mean, she wasn’t really that much Catholic. Like, if she was sleeping with that dude, that’s not really that Catholic. Or the moment that she said, “She didn’t have the wedding in a Church, so it didn’t count.”
N: So what does that mean? What does it mean for someone in Poland, to not get married in a Church? Does that not make it mean that it didn’t happen?
R: No, because we usually have one (marriage ceremony) in Church and another one in you know a City Hall or whatever. So if you get married in a Church it is harder to get a divorce and then get married in another Church. Once you marry in Church, you can’t really divorce someone else and then remarry in Church, because they just won’t let you.
N: So, is that why she didn’t get married in a Church then? (to her Italian husband)
R: Yeah, I would assume so. So that’s why she said, “It’s fake. It didn’t matter that much.” Like you know what, my sister had a baby last year and she wanted me to be the baby’s Godmother, but because I live with Chris and we are not married I couldn’t be a Godmother for her baby.
N: You can’t do certain things if you’re not married?
R: Yeah, basically. So I can’t really live with Chris.
N: You are saying that because of Religion, because of religious attitudes in Poland it’s, I wouldn’t say hindering but its restricting what you can and can’t do?
N: Is it specific to Poland, or is it something across other Eastern European countries?
R: I don’t know. I think that they are being really fussy in Poland, like really fussy. Like, if you go to have a confession in Church to get rid of all your sins, if you tell the Priest that you live with someone that you are not married to and you say you are going to continue doing that, he will say that “You can not get the confession done, because you are going to live in sin.” That’s how they say it. So I think that is what she (Zula) meant by saying, “The marriage was fake.”
N: One of the things that struck me in the film is that both of the two main leads have different attitudes to going home, going back to Poland. I know this is a Soviet version of Poland, so there’s differences (to now). She goes home, she decides to leave Paris and decides to legally go back to Poland, because she married the Italian, she was able to travel legally. Whereas he went to Paris, renounces his Polish citizenship. So she goes back to Poland, and even though life in Paris is portrayed as more free, as better, a free society. Compared with life in Soviet Poland, it’s restricted its portrayed in a..
R: …in a bad view, yeah.
N: Yeah in a bad view. Is with what you have experienced, and what you know of your heritage, is there a connection to being home, to going back to Poland? Do you feel as a Polish citizen that you have to go back?
R: No. Not really. I get accommodated where I am. And I am going back to see Family for holiday, but I don’t really care that much. Like if someone was gonna shit on Poland, to my face, I am gonna shit on them back. But, no, I don’t really feel like I have to go back. It’s not me saying I don’t want to go back because it’s so bad, it is because I don’t really care where I live.
N: Do you think that is a change in attitude specific to your generation? Do you think older generations wouldn’t have that view, like they have to go back?Is this something specific to your generation?
R: I don’t really think so. We have friends that are going back to Poland, this Thursday, because they decided they want to live there. I think it is easier to go back to Poland, because that is the language that you know, that is the culture that you know. But for me myself, it isn’t really that important.
N: You don’t mind being away from Poland?
R: No, not really. I know that my friend who is still in England and she got here 5 years ago, she was literally sitting here for like a month sitting crying, wanting to go back. But she was only doing that because she was a sissy and wanted to go back to see her Mum.
N: It was because she was homesick?
R: Yeah. It was just homesick, now she is alright. I don’t really think that people want to go back to the country because it is there, I think they want to go back because of their family.
N: So what the film does then, he goes back to see her, to see her. She goes back to Poland because its her home. Do you think that this is a generational thing, being in mind that this took place over the late 40s and 50s?
R: I will think so. This is post-war, so they had to fight for their country. So they feel like they fought for it so they care for it. There is so many more Polish people abroad now, than there was 50 years ago. So yeah, I think this is about generations. But, I don’t care that much. Like, my Dad was here (UK) for 10 years, and he just went back last year.
N: You wanted to talk about the music.
R: Yeah. I liked the music. The music that they were playing is from South Poland, which is where my Dad is from. I don’t know if you noticed but the signing was off tone, like off the note. That is how they would sing it, off the note. It is nice to listen to for me, but Chris didn’t like it because it was off the note, that’s how they play it. But they were going from one part of Poland folklore to another one, they are really close together, but they do sing slightly different, they do cover the two regions.
N: Did you notice that the song that Zula sung with the other girl, that were different interpretations of that song through the film? Did you catch that it was done over different genres?
R: I didn’t catch that. Sorry.
N: That’s OK. Is there anything else that you want to talk about the film that caught your eye that you want to talk about?
R: Do you remember the dude that she ended up with, with the little boy? Did you know that he is a really well known Polish actor, that’s been in loads of movies for so many years, but he is still shit. [Laughs] He was so bad.
N: What is wrong with him as an Actor?
R: He had no emotion in his voice. [Laughs]
N: Is that what he is like in other films?
R: Yeah. I mean, not always, he used to be better. I just look at the movie and was like, “uhoh, no”. [Laughs] That’s why I don’t like Polish movies. Because they are just bad. Actually there is one Polish movie that I do like, its so funny, they do swear a lot but its so funny.
N: Whats the name of that one?
R: In English translation, its basically called, ‘Dogs 3 Dangerous Women’. That’s so funny. They were actually viewing that in Taunton, like 3 years ago. I don’t know how it would look in English, but in Polish it’s so funny.
N: Because COLD WAR came out in 2018, and it was Poland’s submission for the Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars…
R: Did it win anything?
N: Not at the Oscars, no.
N: [Laughs] As a Polish citizen, as it is an Arthouse film, you said you didn’t like it. Can you elaborate on what it was exactly about the film you didn’t like?
R: Yeah, it was literally so dull and sad. I just don’t like this portrait. Like sometimes, they cut the scenes short, and you had to think for yourself. You had to assume what happened. Why don’t you just add another 5 minutes to the movie, say what happened. I didn’t like it. It was like they started the movie nicely, and the last 15 minutes they just cut scenes short. I am literally the worst person in the world to ask.
N: No, it’s fine. I got some really interesting things from you regarding Poland and the film. That I wouldn’t have got elsewhere.
R: Choose a better movie next time.
N: [Laughs] The title, COLD WAR, does that have any meaning to you?
R: No. It was really Stalin-ish. I didn’t like that.
N: Is what you saw of Poland in the film, still there to this day?
R: I mean, not really. In the movie they were pushed to do it, like they had to. It still was after the war, and there was a big impact on them, that’s why they had to sing about Stalin. It’s not there anymore. There was a situation a few years ago, where the petrol prices, like 6 years ago, they doubled. Because Russia was threatening us that they were going to cut petrol income to us. I don’t know how it was resolved but they felt like they could still do it, but people went crazy and paid the petrol prices twice. They still have a little bit of impact, but the people won’t allow it now.
N: Something that struck me in the film, being an outsider, was that Polish folklore and identity was being lost under the Soviet rule. An example being the woman at the beginning who voiced concern over the songs changing towards propaganda, and then she walks out of a later scene. That was for me representing Poland’s identity being lost through the music. Has that identity come back, do you think? Away from other countries?
R: Oh yeah. So the folk music, we do have modern bands that do do the folk music, not off the tone though. [Laughs] It is being sung in folklore style. A lot of the songs being sung in English. I mean, no way in hell do we sing about Russia, we don’t like Russians. So, I don’t think they teach Russian in schools anymore, and neither German, I mean more German than Russian, it’s more English.
N: Okay, I think I got everything that I needed. Going to stop the recording now.
Interesting! The story aside, I thought the cinematography and screenplay were very intricately and ornately done, but at the same time the pacing and also the ending were not too satisfying. Still a positive experience overall for me, but I liked the film Ida a lot more