When a film opens with a lingering shot of a men’s bathroom with no visible characters and faint wet noises that you can only assume are produced by some illicit oral sex, you know you are in for a slightly challenging ride. Floating Skyscrapers is the story of a young Polish swimmer struggling with his homosexuality whilst living with his mother and his girlfriend. It is a story of denial, desire, and consequences that is a first for Poland as writer/director Tomasz Wasilewski describes it as “the first Polish LGBT film”.
The film reminded me a lot of The Comedian; a film so good our star review can be found on the DVD cover. Much like its British counterpart Floating Skyscrapers focusses on one man’s struggle with juggling his relationships and the pain this brings him. However where The Comedian succeeded in making me empathise deeply with its protagonist, Floating Skyscrapers left me cold and a little bored. Much like the opening shot the film is quite clinical and the audience is removed from the action. A lot of the time I felt like I was seeing events happen without any real insight into how the characters were feeling and what they were thinking.
The events of the film should be shocking and emotive but Wasilewski seems to have been too focussed on style over substance. Lots of scenes are beautifully shot but the characters are mostly left with minimal dialogue and so become almost impenetrable. We are supposed to sympathise with them but it’s a struggle to relate to characters you know nothing about. The film is quite raw and painful and scenes of both violence and sex are viscerally real but the threadbare characterisation dulled the impact a little. Sex and violence are a combination that should never be boring but sadly that’s how I felt at times as I waited for the film to fully engage me.
Clearly Floating Skyscrapers is ground-breaking for its home country and is a gorgeous and, dare I say it, important film but it failed to connect with me enough for me to get the full effect of its brutal tale/tail.
Floating Skyscrapers screens at the festival on the 16th and 20th October and is in UK cinemas on 2nd December 2013.