Dustin Hoffman said it in Stranger than Fiction: if you’re in a tragedy, you die; if you’re in a comedy, you get married. Viewers will have to decide for themselves exactly what sort of story they are getting from director and co-writer Pawel Pawlikowski’s handsome, gorgeous, heartbreaking, heart-thumping romance. Handsome: pianist Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) looks like a cross between Clive Owen and Michael Fassbender, Pawlikowski’s precise framing tends to put the subject near the bottom of the screen and let the world open up (or bear down from) above, and the lighting and focus make the principals gleam like diamonds amid coal. Gorgeous: singer Zula (Joanna Kulig) looks like a cross between Jennifer Lawrence and Cate Blanchett, the music that both drives and infuses the story burns with felt life, and the black-and-white image makes the absolute most of Poland’s snowstruck light and Paris’s voluptuous shadows. Heartbreaking: our lovers are beset from within and without; there’s a cold war on, and while they are for each other, they are also still their own. (Zula especially — she is the star Wiktor must follow.) Heart-thumping: the passion on display is of all sorts, a steady flame against the cold.
Length: 1 hour, 29 minutes