Tomasz Wasilewski's "Floating Skyscrapers."
Tomasz Wasilewski's "Floating Skyscrapers."
Ideally there’d be a way around this, but it appears there is not: if you’re a gay couple in an independent film, things aren’t going to end well for you. The cloud of disaster hangs low over “Floating Skyscrapers,” a Polish drama about two male lovers that begins with the conspicuous, unseen activity of consensual male sexual activity behind bathroom doors as if it was a big, honking warning: walk into this film, and you’re going to see and feel it all; if it wasn’t so upsetting, we wouldn’t be hiding it right now.

Kuba (Mateusz Banasiuk) moves through the waters like a shark, zipping through the pool as he trains daily, bred seemingly from his early youth to produce a certain kind of results. This is mirrored with his relationship with conventionally-gorgeous blond girlfriend Sylwie (Marta Nieradkiewicz), whom he seduces regularly, the two of them seemingly in love. Or maybe that’s just the cinematic allure of two gorgeous heterosexual people always half-naked around each other: whatever the case, the two live with an older woman in an unexplained arrangement that apparently goes hand-in-hand with his sporting skills. Even sex is based around a certain set of requirements.

A date takes the two of them to an art museum, which leads Kuba to roll his eyes and even burp at the works collected on the wall. Moving outside, he strikes up a conversation with Mikal (Bartosz Gelner), another man seemingly dragged to this presentation, but enjoying the balcony with a thick, well-packed joint. As the two of them trade a spliff, Sylwie watches from a distance wordlessly. Could she have expected this? 

Eventually, because these gay tragedies also function as horror stories for straight females in monogamous relationships, Kuba starts sneaking out under his girlfriend’s nose to meet with the mysterious Mikal, getting picked up on the side of the highway, or even meeting right after work. Despite his domesticated routine with Sylwie, Kuba begins to question the confident path that’s been set out for him already: it eventually bleeds into his career, with his skills suddenly slacking, his desire to compete waning almost completely.

The title of “Floating Skyscrapers” refers to a third-act anecdote, but Tomasz Wasilewski’s second film is deeply intrigued by the cold architecture of building exteriors and the claustrophobia of the indoors. While Kuba and Sylwie claim to be comfortable sharing space with another, the camera never fails to capture them cramped within the frame, inconveniencing each other. And when characters collide outside in scenes of lust or violence, one can’t ignore how they are framed against oppressive outdoor objects. With a fairly short runtime, it’s also worth noting how Wasilewski manages to capture the nude body, both male and female: a mid-film intimacy session between Kuba and Sylwie lingers on what appears to be an unsimulated act of cunnilingus between the actors, their hips eventually uniting like two pieces meant to be together.

Wasilewski's intimate direction and interest in artifice manages to eclipse the fact that our leads seem unknowable, unreachable even. Kuba and Mikal grow closer and closer, but what appears to be love is only captured through lust, the duo rarely exchanging any meaningful words. It’s one of those films where you’re kept outside of the relationship to the point where a late scene showing them laughing at each other makes you wonder exactly what it is that these two discuss. Tragedy is unavoidable in “Floating Skyscrapers” but Wasilewski at least manages to make it immensely appealing from a visual standpoint, suggesting he’s only the right story away from making a truly transcendent piece of art. [B]