Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Knife in the Water [1962]

Notorious Polish filmmaker Roman Polanski, who had made only shorts until then, made his feature length debut with the acclaimed psychological thriller Knife in the Water. Photographed in stark black-and-whites, and shot nearly completely on water, the film had as its focus a power play between two men belonging to disparate social backdrops – consequently it was as much a portrayal of the battle of wits between them, as it quite smartly explored class struggle for one-upmanship. Coldly distant uber-wealthy couple, the cocksure and arrogant Andrej (Leon Niemczyk) and his coy but sultry wife Krystyna (Jolanta Umecka), is on their way to their sailing tryst on their personal yacht when they end up giving a ride to a young hitchhiker (Zygmunt Malanowicz) who accepts the husband’s invitation to join them on their boat. Andrej’s contempt towards the young man is obvious from the beginning as he goes about, initially subtly and eventually overtly, humiliating him by displaying his prowess as a sailor as well as his physical strength. However, what started as seemingly playful tussle for superiority turns into simmering hostility, with the film reaching its crescendo when the titular ‘knife’ gets thrown into the water – followed by a sly but expected plot unfolding concerning the hitherto silent wife. This startling debut feature for Polanski managed to be an arresting character study, aided by a sparsely used snazzy jazz-based score, excellent photographic angles, gradually peaking sexual tension, and terrific narrative and character buildups, leading to a memorably ambiguous climax, with the acerbic social commentary and dark nihilism kept just beneath the surface.

Director: Roman Polanski
Genre: Thriller/Psychological Thriller/Social Satire
Language: Polish
Country: Poland


JJ said...

Great movie!

David said...

My 2nd fave Polanski film(1st being The Bitter Moon),great examination on the third man intrusion into a marriage relationship.

BTW,interesting you call him "notorious",lol

Shubhajit said...

@JJ: Yes indeed!

@David: Thanks David. Well, Polanski is a great filmmaker, but also a notorious one - I'm sure Polanski himself wouldn't mind that adjective :)

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