Cannes: Passion and politics merge in the exquisite doomed romances of 'Ash Is Purest White,' 'Cold War'

But where “Ida” felt exploratory and open-ended, the story of a young woman’s inner awakening, “Cold War” is a tempestuous romance that begins in passion and ends in futility and despair. When they first meet in 1949, Zula (Kulig), a strikingly beautiful young singer, is auditioning for a musical ensemble led by the older Wiktor (Tomasz Kot), a conductor and pianist. The sparks between them are immediately apparent, especially to Wiktor’s co-director, Irena (Agata Kulesza, as supremely cynical here as she was in “Ida”), and before long the two are having an affair behind the scenes.