Knife in the Water

Roman Polanski’s debut feature is a sharp, masterful social satire and psychodrama that pits two disparate males on a boat in the middle of a lake along with a luscious female. The female’s husband is a brutish, chauvinist bourgeois bully while the other is a feckless, rootless rogue. Polanski delicately dissects a gossamer-light script in hewing his portrait of class and societal breakdown. Knife In the Water is hypnotic, by turns dreamy and thought-provoking. Male sexual politics ramp up once this middle-class couple pick up a hitchhiker and take him along on their sailing excursion. The bully, Andrzej (Niemczyk), immediately feels his alpha status vis-à-vis his wife Krystyna (Umecka) threatened by the handsome stranger (Malanowicz). Andrzej challenges him to silly trials of manliness while the latter snaps and bites back with taunts and jibes. A storm comes up, the three retire to the galley where they play games, listen to a boxing match on the radio, the woman sings a song and the hitchhiker recites a poem (much to Andrzej’s disgust and chagrin). At dawn the next day, push comes to shove and what starts off as a suspenseful disaster takes on sexual undercurrents. There are depths of class, sexual and social mores that Polanski effortlessly and beautifully dives into, coming up with provocative pearls every time. The acting, music and camerawork all weave together to create an unexpectedly magical, brilliantly crafted, intensely sensuous experience.

Grade: A

Directed by: Roman Polanski
Written by: Roman Polanski, Jerzy Skolimowski, Jakub Goldberg
Cast: Leon Niemczyk, Jolanta Umencka, Zygmunt Malanowicz

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