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A crescendo of anxiety

The Wind. A Documentary Thriller
Regissør: Michal Bielawski

THE TATRA MOUNTAINS / The Wind is an evocative portrait of nature's incredible power and its touch of human life.


The find wind, known as Halny, ravages the Polish and Slovak Tatra mountains several times each year. It is a wind that blows from the south, causes the temperature to rise and humidity to drop, and that comes with sudden gusts of wind causing great destruction of unimaginable magnitude. Trees – even entire forest areas – collapse, bridges collapse, and houses are smashed as a result of this wind. But in addition to the material devastation, the locals believe that the wind also has a supernatural ability to haunt people's minds.

Michal Bielawski's film follows the lives of three main characters in the Polish part of the Tatra Mountains. The film is an intense and evocative portrait of nature's incredible power and its touch of human life.

It is only a matter of time before the wind returns.

Their existence seems structured around the arrival of the wind – from the tension that builds up before it arrives, when hell breaks loose and disaster strikes, to the silence afterwards.

In a subtle way, Halny is also a character. It is a force to be reckoned with, and in the region it is regarded as something supernatural. Residents fear it and take their precautions. They also believe that the periods with Halny increase the number of suicides. This belief is so rooted in the local culture that several researchers have embarked on this theme. Their conclusion is that Halny itself did not increase the risk of suicide, but that the risk increased in the summer and fall.

The Wind. A Documentary Thriller
Director Michal Bielawski

An expected prophecy

A middle-aged female poet, a peasant grandfather with a mustache, and a young ambulance-employed woman live as they usually do. We see fragments of weekdays and moods that are both uneventful and intense. As the calls to the ambulance increase in number, the man takes care of his farm, while the poet is about to buy a piece of the area's beloved forest. But there is a sense of imminent danger in the air – and at any moment the storm can break. The power of nature preparing something, and all three characters get ready. The unexpected lies in the details – the clouds moving, the close-up of the texture of the tree, earth which touches a little bit today, and again a bit tomorrow.

When the snow and darkness comes, Halny's arrival feels like the fulfillment of a long-awaited prophecy. trees begins to fall, emergency calls abound, the wind is ruthless and threatening, and apparently has no limit. Grandpa's house burns down, people collapse – it seems the world is falling apart.

In a subtle way, Halny is also a character.

#Halny destroys all that is safe and good. It hits people at the core of what makes them feel at home. After the wind has passed, the grandfather must clear away the charred remains of the house, while the poet's skog not damaged at all. Still, there is a sense of peace after the disaster – the respite when all the broken parts fall back into place.

Bielawski's film is perceived as real-life, yet not really real, given the cinematographic form of the film. His footage testifies to a distinctive atmosphere and texture, and follows the characters' lives and the changes of nature where they blend with alarming emergency calls.

Just a matter of time

Michal Bielawski
Michal Bielawski

The film could be mistakenly understood as simple, even if it is anything but. Each scene and element is carefully selected and assembled to build the overall crescendo of anxiety that constitutes the core. There to see The Wind is actually not so much about following the story as 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.

Through Bielawski's filming, nature underlines its mystery and its power. The forest, the wind and the snowstorms make a powerful impression and seem governed by something bigger and overwhelming that cannot be tamed. Nature has an unpredictable capricorn, with a strength beyond human reach. This tremendous power requires reverence for what it can accomplish.

The world in which Halny rules is a world of its own in which time is divided into three: before, during and after. To consider it changes the feeling of nature as a home, and that we have power over it. This fear reminds us that nature can change its seemingly good-natured behavior and move from feeding us to destroying us in an instant.

Bielawski conveys these thoughts through a visual and emotional journey, and the disturbing feeling of this truth does not let go. In the aftermath of Halny need samfunnet – and the viewer – time to heal from the devastation and emotional damage it has caused, knowing that it is only a matter of time before the wind returns.

Translated by Lasse Takle


Bianca-Olivia Nita
Bianca-Olivia Nita
Nita is a freelance journalist and critic for Ny Tid.

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