Tomasz Wasilewski • Director
"What matters, is the true strength of the emotions"
by Dorota Hartwich
- The Polish filmmaker tells Cineuropa about the genesis of is second feature, Floating Skyscrapers.
Cineuropa: It took you eight years to complete Floating Skyscrapers [+see also:
interview: Tomasz Wasilewski
film profile]. Did the screenplay evolve a lot during this time?
Tomasz Wasilewski: Hugely. If I had directed the film on the basis of the first screenplay, it would be about something else, different situations, different characters. It would be the story of a woman in her fifties, her daughter and her homosexual relation with another girl. That is to say, a completely different story.
Why did you decide to change the screenplay and focus on the relationship between two men?
I don’t want to make films that are socially committed, I’m not interested in doing that for now. However, in this case, I needed some grounding. The social backdrop present in the film is important, and that’s what, especially in Poland, gives the film the grounding I was looking for. I felt that, in this context, the story of two boys would be stronger than that of two girls.
The film has two dimensions: a universal story about man in general and a strongly “labelled” film since critics are notably talking about the “first Polish gay film”. For you, which aspect is more important?
The truth about man. I agree with the reactions of spectators whom I met during the screenings at festivals. For them, the film talks about love, and sex, be it homosexual or heterosexual, is of no importance. What matters, is the true strength of the emotions.
However, there is currently a wave of films dealing with homosexuality such as Blue is the Warmest Colour [+see also:
interview: Abdellatif Kechiche
film profile] and In the Name of [+see also:
interview: Malgorzata Szumowska
interview: Mateusz Kosciukiewicz
film profile] by Malgorzata Szumowska.
I really like Blue is the Warmest Colour. As for the fact that Malgorzata directed her film at the same as mine, it was a coincidence. My films are never calculated or aligned with moments that need more of this or more of that. I do not answer to needs that can be identified in society.
The main roles are not easy. Was the casting difficult?
I was sure Marta Nieradkiewicz would be the best for the role. We are friends and I know her well, but beyond this friendship, she mainly has undeniable talent. On the other hand, it was difficult to find the boys. I had to wait until the last day of casting. They arrived together, they met and started acting in front of me. It was exactly what I was hoping for.
How do you work with the actors? Do you rehearse a lot or do you allow spontaneity?
I make the actors rehearse a lot and I am very demanding. It was just as much the case with my first film (In a Bedroom [+see also:
film profile]) with stars of Polish cinema, as it was with these very young actors. We had five months of preparation and the possibility of rehearsing all the scenes. In general, I don’t treat film production as work and I look for actors who are engaged in the same way.
Were you as exigent in your work with cinematographer Jakub Kijowski ?
Yes. I had a precise vision of the making of the images, which was accomplished by Jakub. I always know what kind of images I want. I respect the work of the cinematographer a lot. I never give him complete freedom but I don’t impose my vision either. The issue is to find a poetical common ground.
In both features you directed water is a recurring element. Is this a conscious decision?
(Laughs) You are the second person to mention it. To my great surprise, it isn’t conscious at all. I like what is irrational. I am often irrational in life and I like irrationality to enter cinema.
Water is nevertheless a symbol.
Of course. For Jakub, who is a swimmer and spends a lot of time at the pool, water is the most natural element, the one that gives him the most freedom. In this element, he lacks oxygen. And as soon as he comes out of the water, everything scares him in the real world and his daily life.
Where does the title come from: Floating Skyscrapers ?
When I was a kid, I went to New York with my parents. As my father was taking a picture of us near the UN’s building, the sentence "Floating Skyscrapers" came to my mind. I told myself I would make a film out of it. This title came back to me as I was writing the screenplay. It is obviously another metaphor: for my characters, it’s the place where things will get better…
Do you have another fixed idea for your next film?
Of course. I already have the title: United States of Love. I am currently perfecting the screenplay. It’s the portrait of five women after the fall of communism.
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.