Down and out in Warsaw, Tomasz Wasilewski’s sexy and haunting Floating Skyscrapers explores identity in flux and gay love in a hopeless place in modern Poland.
Hearts And Minds by Mark Wilshin
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
And then like buses, two come along at once. After Malgorzata Szumowska’s diary of a gay country priest In The Name Of, comes a rather more urban Polish gay film in the shape of Tomasz Wasilewski’s Floating Skyscrapers. And if Malgorzata Szumowska’s film is all emotional maelstrom in the mind, Floating Skyscrapers is getting down and dirty, with its car-park rooftop parties and the complicated lives of its characters who refuse to compromise. In a Warsaw of cramped living and biting aspiration, Floating Skyscrapers shows life as we live now – raw, intimate and very often naked.
Living at home with his mother, and with his girlfriend moving in, Kuba (Mateusz Banasiuk) is training hard to become a professional swimmer, hitting the gym floor regularly and hitting on the occasional guy in the locker room. But after meeting Michal (Bartosz Gelner) at a party, his world is thrown into chaos – making excuses to Sylwia (Marta Nieradkiewicz), so that he can phone Michal from his car or meet him to smoke a joint together. Caught in an awkward limbo of straight status quo or out and proud, Kuba lives a double life – eager to be gratified every which way he can – until it starts to tear apart at the seams, giving up his spot on the swimming team and all hope of a normal existence. Desperate, but unable to give up on this chance of happiness, this is life in free fall.
From the beginning, Sylwia knows. From the very first time Kuba meets Michal she’s suspicious. Perhaps she’s noticed his eyes wandering before, and maybe she can even guess at his closet blowjobs behind the gym toilet door, but this one she knows is different. From the very female world of mother and girlfriend, housed claustrophobically and overwhelmingly under one roof, it seems all Kuba wants is a buddy to roll joints and ride trains with. But then there are those roving eyes and smoky blowbacks pushing them closer. And despite Kuba’s sleepless nights, frustrated head-banging or his sudden desire to give up his swimming training, his long-term girlfriend and his well-trodden path, there’s little in Tomasz Wasilewski’s film to show the turbulence and confusion of a man crossing over. Only the up and down ramps of a multi-storey car park that punctuate the film – breaking away from terra firma in search of a new self before coming back down to a new reality.
And the rooftops overlooking the city’s skyline really are Kuba and Michal’s space – cuddling in the backseat of a car or perched on a wall overlooking Warsaw. Like the floating skyscrapers of its title, weightless above the city lights, the two men embody a new possibility of life – a breathless, magical kind of love beyond everyone’s reach. It’s never really shown what makes their love so special, or why Kuba falls for Michal so irresistibly and irrevocably. And for the first half of Floating Skyscrapers, their relationship is like a love that dare not speak its name – wispily present but almost unmentionable – as if addressing it directly might conjure it into existence. But as their burgeoning love falters, cracking under the duties of a soon-to-be father (or is it a plot hatched by a confederacy of women to ensnare their man?), the love between these two men is excised from the face of the earth. In Poland, it seems gay love is either neutralised in a loveless relationship, once erotic but now little more than familial back washing, or murdered in a car park basement.
Just like Malgorzata Szumowska’s In The Name Of, there’s no chance of homosexual love in this place or time. It’s a crushingly bleak ending, but with Michal’s soul-searching parents and a Polish youth daring to come out, there’s hope for greater tolerance in a future where homosexuality just doesn’t matter. At times shocking in its explicit sexuality, its brutal violence and its structural homophobia – both Sylwia and Kuba’s hip mother refuse point blank to accept their son as any less of a man, Floating Skyscrapers is also cleverly innovative, drawing a veil of silence over the women’s kitchen conversation and casting doubt on its truthfulness from the other side of the window. A sensuous journey into the hesitations of an open mind, Tomasz Wasilewski’s Floating Skyscrapers aims high above the skyline.
Floating Skyscrapers is released on 6th December 2013 in the UK