In a conventional coming-out story, the gay male protagonist confronts his sexuality, becomes directly in strife with family and society at large, and finally in a third-act emotional happenstance, manages to negotiate a life of tolerance and acceptance. This is not that film. And Floating Skyscrapers is more than just your average coming-out gay drama. At surface, it’s a dreamy wish-fulfillment of one’s sexual awakening where a handsome swimmer embarks on a passionate affair with a Raphaelite youth, but delve deeper and this film touches on more serious, complex ground of inner conflict, sexual repression and the acrid ignorance of homophobia. It even courageously attempts to shed light on the fluidity of sexual nature, evaluating the concept of delineating sexuality in rigid categories, whether a person is straight, homosexual or bisexual in society’s lazy way of putting people in strict boxes. It’s not very often a film stands up and raise this issue and it’s even braver to suggest that love can be polyamorous, which the central characters struggle to comprehend and accept.
The tale of illicit affair here is not entirely groundbreaking. In other corners of world cinema, Floating Skyscrapers shares the same DNA of many LGBT films with its coming-out issues, domestic discord and the internal anguish of being unaccepted. In fact, it’s very similar to the recent German film Free Fall – both featuring seemingly heterosexual male protagonists involved in serious straight relationships only to question their loyalties and sexualities when faced with the possibility of falling in love with another man. It’s an all-too familiar premise that Skyscrapers skillfully develops into something more, side-stepping clichés and predictable outcomes, sustaining an engrossing, conflicted narrative throughout the film. Even Tomasz Wasilewski’s camera conveys purpose, rigorously framing structures, buildings, bedrooms and car parks with a sense of rigidity and coldness, as though they serve as obstructions to open spaces. A few of the characters’ conversations are held in clandestine manner in cars, inside intimate spaces hidden from a prying world. The cinematography alone says so much about the psychological claustrophobia the main character Kuba is trapped in.
Along with Malgorata Szumowska’s In The Name Of, Polish cinema seems to be slowly reassessing its cultural identity under the draconian tutelage of the Catholic dogma with filmmakers turning their lens to a considerably evaded topic of homosexuality in the country. But what Wasilewski tries to do with Skyscrapers is push the film beyond nation-specific and into something that’s universal – that the arch-enemy of equality and tolerance is the detrimental pairing of barbaric bigotry and abject violence. The narrative here could easily happen anywhere else in the world, where homosexual relationship is frowned upon or worse persecuted by a deeply repressed society. As it happens in Poland, with its history of conservatism, Wasilewski’s film gains some weighty resonance and argumentation in favour of social enlightenment. As the narrative gathers dramatic momentum, Kuba (Mateusz Banasiuk anchors the film with such anguished complexity) becomes increasingly angst-ridden, torn between his ascribed domestic responsibilities and professional pressure. Here, Skyscrapers compellingly portrays the bleak possibility when personal desires are squashed, giving way to a devastating outcome that sucks out whatever air that’s left to breathe. It’s ironic, then, that in the film’s closing credits, which is played out in total, monumental silence, Wasilewski is thunderingly calling out for sexual freedom and change.
Floating Skyscrapers is released on DVD and Blu-Ray from 24 March.