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Michał Bielawski • Director of The Wind. A Documentary Thriller

"When I was preparing for my film, a judge told me that the number of crimes committed increases because of halny"


- Polish director Michał Bielawski talked to us about The Wind. A Documentary Thriller, the Krakow Film Festival’s opening movie

Michał Bielawski  • Director of The Wind. A Documentary Thriller
(© Piotr Litwic)

Polish director Michał Bielawski sat down to tell us more about The Wind. A Documentary Thriller [+see also:
film review
interview: Michał Bielawski
film profile
, the 2019 Krakow Film Festival’s opening film.

Cineuropa: We are sitting in Krakow. It’s cloudy and it’s about to rain. How are you feeling?
Michał Bielawski:
 Fine, thank you. I am not very sensitive to the weather; however, when I was making The Wind. A Documentary Thriller, I was afraid that I would be under the influence of the halny wind a little too much. Eventually, I only felt it have an effect on me twice. One night before shooting, I couldn’t fall asleep, although it was probably only stress. The other time, I had the classic symptoms – I felt enraged, and unfortunately it was all unloaded on my crew. 

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Everyone in Poland knows what halny is: it’s a super-strong wind that blows in the Tatra Mountains and is said to make people go crazy. There are very few similar winds anywhere in the world. I read somewhere that if you commit a crime when the wind is roaring, your sentence may be lower.
You are probably talking about the sirocco. When I was preparing for my film, I was told by a judge that the number of crimes committed increases because of halny. But what is interesting here is the fact that violence occurs right before it starts to blow, not while it is blowing. But there are many and diverse incidents connected to halny: not only domestic violence, but also heavy drinking and suicides.

The Wind. A Documentary thriller starts like a thriller, with a 999 emergency call.
When I presented the first teaser of the film at the industry workshop at the Doclisboa Film Festival, one of the commissioners told me that it looked like “weather porn”. It was a tempting direction to take – to present calamity after calamity, until the on-screen world falls apart. But I wanted to do more than that. Luckily, at the beginning of the shoot, I managed to record enough dramatic scenes, and therefore I could focus on other elements. I wanted the audience to meet and bond with my characters. My aim was to present interesting twists and turns, not just an action-packed movie about the wind, creeping up on them like a villain.

How did you explore this idea?
Initially, I thought I would play it safe and just do interviews with selected protagonists. I am very happy I didn’t do that, though. Sometimes I even regretted the fact that I was not making a fiction film, because it would have been so much easier to stage situations or give acting exercises to my characters. Finding and filming situations involving people that would be able to show the influence of the wind took some time. I had to observe them carefully and learn to notice tiny changes in their behaviour caused by halny. Just when I thought I wouldn’t be able to film that type of situation, there it was! And they were classic ones, too – people became very edgy and snappy towards each other. The editing by Hubert Pusek helped me a lot with this, so we were able to condense all of these emotional outbursts so that the audience could observe and understand the way the wind affects people. 

Your movie presents the relationship between people and nature in a much broader way. Halny drives some of them crazy or makes them sick. But you also present the character of a poet who is deeply touched by the beauty of the forest and the mountain. 
Before shooting started, I was brainstorming with producer Maciek Kubicki and cinematographer Bartek Solik on who I should have in the film in order to present as many perspectives on and attitudes to the wind as possible. For example, I wanted to film people using gliders, who could present the poetic beauty of the wind, or firemen, who are on the frontlines, fighting the damage wreaked by halny. Overall, I had 13 different people in mind, but in the end, I picked those who were intense enough to make the story work. I also liked the fact that Staszek, Teresa and Ewa are mysterious – we don’t know what they do or who they are – and that the audience would be interested in learning how their stories unfold. That array of characters also gave me an opportunity to show the Podhale region in an unusual way. In my film, Podhale is full of mud and dirt.

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