The Wind. A Documentary Thriller
Maciej KubickiAnna Kepinska
The foehn wind, known as the Halny, shatters the Polish and the Slovakian Tatra mountains several times each year. It is a wind that blows from the south, causing a rise in temperature and a drop in air humidity, and comes with sudden gusts causing an incredible amount of damage. Trees – even entire parts of forests – collapse, bridges fall and houses are destroyed. Beyond the material destruction, locals also believe it holds the power to play with people’s minds.
Following the lives of three main characters in the Polish part of the Tatra mountains, Michal Bielawski’s film is an intense and atmospheric portrayal of nature’s incredible force and how it relates to people’s lives. Their lives seem structured around the wind’s coming, from the tension that builds for its arrival, when hell breaks lose and disaster strikes, to the calm of its aftermath.
Beyond the material destruction, locals also believe it holds the power to play with people’s minds.
In a subtle way, Halny is also a charater. It is a force to reckon with, but in the region it is revered as if supernatural. Its coming is felt with anticipation. The locals fear it and brace accordingly. They believe these times also increase the suicide rate. This belief is so deeply rooted in the local culture, it has promted researchers to study it, finding that Halny did not change the probability of suicide, yet it increased its risk in summer and autumn.
A long anticipated prophecy
A middle-aged poetess, a grandpa with a mustache and a shell decorated hat, and a young woman working in an ambulance, all go about their lives. We see fragments of their days and moods, both uneventfull and intense. As the number of ambulance calls increases, the man manages his farm, and the poetess buys a piece of the region’s beloved forest, there is sense of iminent danger in the air, ready to materialize at any moment. The force of nature is preparing something, and all three characters prepare for it. The unexpected lies in the details – the moving clouds, the closeup on the trees texture, the earth moving just a bit today and then again a little bit tomorrow.
By the time the snow and darkness comes, the arrival of Halny feels like a long anticipated prophecy. Trees start to fall, emergency calls come rolling in, the wind is fierce, threatening, and seemingly without end. The grandpa’s house burns down, people collapse – the world seems to fall apart.
By the time the snow and darkness comes, the arrival of Halny feels like a long anticipated prophecy
Halny destroys all that is safe and lovely. It hits humans at the core of what makes them feel at home. After the wind has passed, the grandpa has to clean his farm from the remains of the fire, while the poetess’ piece of forest is all but destroyed. Yet, there is a sense of peace after the disaster, the moment of respite, to put all the shattered pieces back together.
Bielawski’s film feels like finding cinema in reality, but not reality put in the mold of cinematic form. His shots have atmosphere and texture, following the characters’ lives and nature’s changes, all mixed with alarming emergency calls.
But a matter of time
The film could be mistakenly understood as simple, although it is anything but. Each scene and element are carefully curated and combined, to build the overall crescendo of unease at its core. In fact, watching The Wind is not so much about the story as it is about feeling and exploring through the senses. It is an emotional journey with a sense of increasing danger that feels both real and unreal at the same time.
It is but a matter of time until the wind comes back.
Through Bielawski’s shots, nature reclaims its mystery and might. The forests, the wind and the snowstorms are impressive, and they seem possesed by something bigger – something untamable and overwhelming. Its moods are unpredictable, with strength beyond human control. This force calls for humbleness in front of nature, and a sort of reference in front of what its mighty strenght might or might not do.
Overall, The Wind is a metaphor for power. The world where Halny rules is a world in itself. A world where time is cut into three parts: before, during, and after. Watching it shakes the feeling of nature being home, of us having power over nature. This fear works as a reminder that nature could change its aparent benevolent ways, moving from nurturing us, to destroying us in the blink of an eye.
Bielawski brings forward these ideas through a visual and emotional journey, and the unsettling feeling of this truth remains after its conclusion. In the aftermath of Halny, the community – and the viewer – need time to heal from the destruction and the emotional wounds it has created, all while knowing it is but a matter of time until the wind comes back.