The torn curtain of love is the theme of Paweł Pawlikowski’s mysterious, musically glorious and visually ravishing film set in cold war Poland and beyond. The crystalline black-and-white cinematography exalts its moments of intimate grimness and its dreamlike showpieces of theatrical display. […] A love a air thrashes and wilts in the freedom of a foreign country, and then begins to submit to the homeland’s doomy gravitational pull. Like Pawlikowski’s previous picture, Ida [HIFF 2014], this is about the dark heart of Poland itself. The wounded love at its centre surfaces from the depths of cynicism, exhaustion and state-sponsored submission and fear.
[…] [P]ianist and composer Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) and the producer Irena (Agata Kulesza), […] have some emotional history together. But Wiktor’s eye is caught by […] Zula (Joanna Kulig). […] Soon, Wiktor and Zula are having a passionate affair and he has made Zula into a star. Their relationship comes to a crisis when they get to perform in East Berlin and there is a perfect opportunity to defect: agreeing to meet in a certain spot at a certain time. Will one of them lose their nerve? […] Will the foreign world of Paris really bring happiness? Is a “cold war” what all relationships finally degenerate into? Or is it that this clenched, fearful world of Poland, with its quasi-miracle of communist showbusiness triumph, was the only real nursery for […] ecstatic love?
There is an exquisite chill to this film.
Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian