Michał Bielawski’s film is more than just the history of a weather phenomenon – it is a documentary about the inevitability of fate. ‘The Wind’ is one of the most original Polish documentaries of recent years.
When it starts to blow, there is no way to hide from it or completely shelter oneself. Its destructive power manifests itself in destroyed forests and houses. However, halny is not only a destructive element but also an experience which influences our mood and health. When it descends from the mountains, it carries with it a wave of suicide attempts, strokes, and other tragedies.
Halny, a powerful foehn wind which blows from the Polish Tatry mountains, is the star of Michał Bielawski’s most recent documentary. The director undertook an insanely ambitious task. How does one tell a story about the wind and its nature without falling into naturalistic banality, without copying David Attenborough and without posing as the new Godfrey Reggio of Koyaanisqatsi? The young Polish documentalist found the answer to this question. He portrays the wind in a thoroughly original manner while avoiding clichés and devices to simplify the film’s narrative. He created an observational documentary in which the stories of four characters testify to halny’s destructive nature.
In The Wind, there are no talking heads recounting their feelings or remembering dramatic events starring halny. Bieniawski’s camera accompanies the characters during their everyday lives. Among them is a female poet from Tatry in love with the forest and being close to nature, the elderly father of a large family trying to build his own small wind power facility, a local meteorologist, and a young female paramedic. Through their stories, Bielawski speaks of the upcoming misfortune as inevitable and unrecognised. He mindfully portrays their rituals to show how the coming of the destructive wind disrupts their everyday routine.
In this way, the wind becomes the film’s main protagonist. It is a danger to the farmer with a heart condition, it destroys a forest – the love object of the local poet. Because of the wind, the young paramedic has to take part in dozens of interventions with suicides and people who are driven into a panic by the turbulent element.
In Bielawski’s film, the wind becomes a symbolic figure of fate. Its coming is inevitable. There is no way to defend against it nor can it be prevented. Facing it head-on is also doomed to failure. It takes from Bielawski’s characters what they value most – it destroys a beloved forest and the house of a large family. It also disturbs the everyday life of a woman trying to find a healthy balance between her professional and private life.
The title of Bielawski’s documentary is not accidental. Indeed, The Wind: A Documentary Thriller turns out to be a thriller. Even though the first sequences do not foreshadow intense emotions, the atmosphere soon becomes tenser. With the coming of the final blow, the rhythm of the montage speeds up and the film becomes more and more stifling and emotionally overwhelming. The final sequences become the creators’ tour de force – they hold viewers hostage to a story of the inevitability of fate.
kraków film festiwal
The Wind: A Documentary Thriller
contemporary polish documentary
In The Wind, the form not only keeps up with the content but also helps build it. Hubert Pusk’s editing diversifies the story’s pace and makes it more emotionally engaging, whereas Bartek Stolik’s cinematography (especially the extraordinary shots of nature being destroyed by halny) allows the viewer to become a participant in a fascinating journey. Lukáš Kobela’s music triggers viewer’s emotions by adding additional meanings to the scenes and adding a sensual context. There is also Martin Merc’s spectacular sound work – its role in the film is paramount.
Bielawski, who was previously associated with excellent documentaries based on archival footage, broadened his language as a director and created a mature and striking story about fate. His The Wind is one of the most original documentaries in Polish cinema in recent years and is a testimony of his skill and artistic courage. His use of metaphor in an observational documentary creates a creative documentary which stays close to reality for its entire runtime.
Michał Bielawski’s film opened the 59th Kraków Film Festival.
- The Wind: A Documentary Thriller. Screenplay and directing: Michał Bielawski. Cinematography: Bartek Solik. Music: Lukáš Kobel. Montage: Hubert Pusek. Sound: Martin Merc. Polish premiere: 26.05.2019.
Originally written in Polish by Bartosz Staszczyszyn, translated to English by Patryk Grabowski, June 2019