Floating Skyscrapers Is a Realistic Look into the Various Scopes of Love

Films have been known to elicit changes in mood much like downing a glass or two of alcohol. Just like with the various concoctions that one can consume, it all depends on the content and the individual on how it will end up affecting you. There are films that will make you laugh, ones that will make you cry, and ones that will leave you fuming in anger. For many, these emotions usually fade away the minute the lights are turned back on, letting one become aware that reality has set in and it is time to move on.

But then there are those films that make you think of the content long after the credits have finished rolling; ones that stay with you as you sit on your train ride home, or even the following week when you’re gazing out your window at the people passing by, and like a sudden flicker of a shimmering ray of sunlight on your window, something from the film transports you back to that movie theatre in your mind — that moment that captivated you wholly. These are often hidden gems — hard to find but once discovered, they can inspire people and provoke deep thoughts that can accompany one for a lifetime like a loved one or a best friend. Floating Skyscrapers (Płynące Wieżowce) is such a film. It slowly grabs you and pulls you under, carrying you into its inner depths of human emotion, intensity and rawness, and when it finally lets you come up for air, you’re left with an escalating feeling that you wish you could dive into its intricate storyline all over again, craving its authenticity and sincerity.

Centered on the lives of three individuals and their respective families, the Polish feature-film Floating Skyscrapers, which had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival last month, tells the story of Kuba (Mateusz Banasiuk), a promising professional swimmer, who is gradually becoming infatuated with another young man, Michał (Bartosz Gelner) — the two meet at a university party — all while in a two-year relationship with his girlfriend Sylwia (Marta Nieradkiewicz) who lives with him and his mother. The attraction between the two is undeniable. With every side-glance, the viewer can feel the suspense and the rapidly unfolding emotions between the two characters. As the two men grow closer to one another, the truth begins to dawn on Sylwia that she might be very well losing Kuba; a fact that she cannot acknowledge given her deep love for him. However, Sylwia isn’t the only one who is struggling with the truth — Kuba cannot come to terms with his own newfound love. Unable to make decisions, he hurts those around him as well as himself, creating a pool of loneliness that encircles him and those he loves most. According to the director’s statement made by filmmaker Tomasz Wasilewski (this is only his second-feature film, his first being In the Bedroom), “Floating Skyscrapers is a film about the human condition. It is about love, or the lack of it, and about the consequences of seeking out its substitutes. It is about wasted opportunities and lost dreams — about the contemporary world and its pitfalls.”

Many might say that calling an actor’s performance flawless or impeccable can be classified as a cliché, and often an inaccurate one at that. But actor Matuesz Banasiuk delivers a heart-stopping performance as Kuba and it would be imprecise to call it anything but downright perfect. He simply becomes one with the character, allowing the audience to believe what he says and feels without leaving an ounce of room for doubt or dishonesty. He is able to capture Kuba’s fears, reservations and his inability to wholeheartedly accept the unfurling romance, as seen in a swim meet scene where his emotions overwhelm him, making it impossible for him to continue swimming on that particularly important day. But Banasiuk isn’t the only shining star that showed the world that he is an actor to watch. Both Marta Nieradkiewicz and Bartosz Gelner showcase a flair one might expect from only the most experienced actors. Nieradkiewicz as Sylwia exhibits a colorful palette of emotional instability, whilst Gelner as Michał showcases a controlled type of confidence that only unravels a little bit during time spent with his father and mother. Wasilewski himself ought to be applauded as well, not only for his stunning cinematography and his ability to capture actuality as if you were experiencing it along with the characters, but for taking on a challenging subject matter in cinema as well as in Poland. In terms of the faults of this film, there is only one: that it ends too quickly with an 85-minute runtime, leaving the viewer wanting more.

On April 24, GALO had the opportunity to speak with Wasilewski on the phone about his inspirations for the film, how the film might be viewed in Poland, his casting choices and his fascination with New York City. Here’s what he had to say.

GALO: The first film that you made didn’t possess any references or scenes in relation to gay themes. And now with your current film, Floating Skyscrapers (Płynące Wieżowce), you’re a creator of a gay themed film — what interests you in characters who are homosexual and in the problems that they encounter?

Tomasz Wasilewski: I wouldn’t say that it is a gay themed film. It is in essence the first LGBT film in Poland, but to me it has a little bit of a wider understanding in terms of the problems surrounding it than just a gay themed film. My first film was about a 40-year-old woman and the entire plot of the film revolves around her and her story as well as her dramas. I decided to create Floating Skyscrapers (Płynące Wieżowce) because of the fact that I wanted to broach a certain subject matter that is frequently overlooked in Polish cinema — homosexual characters/roles do exist in Polish cinema, but unfortunately, they do not appear as the leading plot points. Very frequently, they are shown in an irreverent, humorous, and even an irrational way, almost as if the viewer or audience member could make jokes based on the homosexual character, especially when the plot or theme is comedic in nature. And thinking about what I wanted to broach — and I want to broach in my films human things (this is what interests me most), which touch the human core — I thought that this would be a perfect occasion to simply introduce such a protagonist, especially in Poland, since for the Polish audience, this type of character is very foreign to them, which is why it had taken me quite some time to figure out how to connect this screenplay… Because in the beginning I wanted the story to be about a mother and a daughter, but eventually, I decided that this will be a story about a mother and a boy, who will simply be discovering within himself his fascination with another man. And such an untouched subject matter really fascinated me in all of this.

You called this film a “gay themed film,” and I agree with the fact that it will probably be often classified as such, but when we were creating the characters with the actors — such as when I was working with actor Mateusz Banasiuk, who plays Kuba, we were trying more so to build him up as a human being by bringing attention to his emotional and moral problems as a human, and not [by simply] classifying him as a homosexual person. Because we were counting on (and we will see [what happens] because the film hasn’t been released in Poland yet) the fact that if we are able to do so, and the audience member will see in Kuba a human being and will feel his emotional dilemmas, then there is a good chance that this theme, even if this subject matter is quite foreign to them, will embed itself with the viewer in correlation with the film. Therefore, I am aware that in some ways this is a gay themed film, but for me it is more so a drama — a human drama, which simply tells the story of such a human being.

(Interview continued on next page)