Interview: Tomasz Wasilewski
GT chats to the Polish film director about his brave new film…
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So what can audiences expect to see in Floating Skyscrapers?
A film about love!
It’s your second feature film, after last year’s award-winning In the Bedroom. Was this a story you always knew you wanted to tell?
In terms of the story, exactly as it’s presented in the film, no, I didn’t. Initially, Floating Skyscrapers meant to tell a different story – a story of a mother and her daughter. The next version of the script told a story about the daughter and another girl (the mother was moved to the background), and in the final version, it was the story of Kuba, Sylwia and Michał. The script evolved a lot. I worked on it for quite a long time – it took me a few years. A situation like this means you can go back to the script a lot and change it again and again. If I had made Floating Skyscrapers in 2009, when I’d planned to do this, the film would have been completely different.
The film has been incredibly well received at film festivals around the world. What do you feel is the secret to capturing a believable and compelling gay relationship onscreen?
In my opinion, the key to the success of Floating Skyscrapers is the fact that it is a movie about people. About their meeting. It is their emotions that are the most important as well as their losing and finding love, their fear, terror etc. These are emotions that everyone has experienced at least once in their life. Regardless of their race, origin, age, sex or sexual orientation. This is the key. Thanks to the fact that it is a human being that is the most important, the film can be understood by everyone, without exception. Whilst making the film, I wasn’t telling a gay story but a story about people.
What was behind the reason to make the protagonist, Kuba, a slightly older, macho guy – and not a typical adolescent coming to terms with their sexuality?
I wanted Kuba to be a sportsman. It was important to me. I also wanted him to be a sort of everyman. Someone you meet everyday in your housing estate, in a supermarket or on the street. When I think about the characters in my movies, I try to find truth in them at all cost. And there is truth in this type of character. Besides, who he was as a human being was important for me. Apart from being gay, he’s also a sportsman, son and boyfriend; he has his own plans and dreams. For me and for the actor – Mateusz Banasiuk – it was very important not to forget about this. Kuba is not only gay, most of all he’s human and every human in the world has their own qualities.
It’s interesting that the film also focuses on Kuba’s girlfriend, who is desperately trying to cling onto him despite his homosexuality. Was it important to you that you balanced his sexual exploration with the consequences that has for others?
Of course. Kuba is not a bad person. Ok, he’s egocentric, that’s for sure, but he’s not evil. He loves Sylwia; at least he did love her. Their relationship was real. But then he met Michał and this love is even bigger, but this doesn’t mean that his love for Sylwia doesn’t count anymore. Floating Skyscrapers also tries to answer the question: what happens when you love one person and meet someone else? Can you love two people simultaneously? And what happens when love ends? In order to answer these questions, the story needed the presence of a girlfriend – Sylwia. It’s also a story about her.
What is the one thing that you hope audiences will take away from the movie?
Emotions, regardless of what they are. Floating Skyscrapers is not a film that’s supposed to teach people or persuade them to anything. This film is supposed to move the audience.
ou’ve described it as the first Polish LGBT film. Have filmmakers held back in the past because of the stigma surrounding homosexuality in Poland?
It’s one of the first movies in which the main character is homosexual. Earlier, in the Polish cinema such characters were usually depicted in a comical, often mocking way. Why it was so – I have no idea.
Given all the recent press about the situation in Russia, why do you think that Eastern Europe continues to lag behind on gay rights?
In Karlovy Vary, where Floating Skyscrapers won a very important competition, East of the West, there was a discussion about my film, which involved producers, distributors and festival selectors from post-communist countries. They unanimously decided that there isn’t a movie that would be similar to Floating Skyscrapers in their countries. When I asked why, they remained silent for a long time, and finally arrived at a conclusion that the cultural and social development of these countries was stopped by communism. Maybe they’re right, I don’t know. Maybe in 20-25 years’ time these countries will be in the exact same place where England is now.
Image: Mateusz Banasiuk, who plays Kuba in the film
Words: Darcy Rive and Lee Dalloway