Knife In The Water (Day 11)
My Opinion: 4.8 || This was Roman Polanski’s first full-length feature, and there’s great skill on display throughout. However, it’s an emotionally cold movie that doesn’t equal the sum of its parts — succeeding more as an exercise in filmmaking than as a compelling film in its own right.
TITLE: Knife In The Water (Nóz w wodzie)
DIRECTOR: Roman Polanski
LANGUAGE: Polish | COUNTRY: Poland
PROFILE: Drama| 94 minutes | IMDb (7.6)
Strengths (Technical): Polanski puts on a clinic in shot framing. Operating almost entirely within the space of a small sailboat, Polansky orchesterates movement — of the camera and the actors — with wonderful flair, and the movie brims over with aftfully composed shots.
Weaknesses (Story Telling): There’s very little story to hang a movie on and little emotional depth, so the film comes off as accomplished but airless. The rudiments of an interesting narrative are there, and Polanski brings it around well enough. But you get the sense that he conceived it less as a story-I-need-to-tell than simply as a platform for skilled, economical direction. We learn that the man really knows how to stage a shot — and not a whole lot else.
Performances: There are only three actors, and they’re generally good, but a persistent chill runs through the performances. The emotional remoteness is presumably what Polanski wanted, but it comes at the cost of engagement and three-dimensionality. Ironically, the best of the three actors, the young man who’s brought onboard the boat, is a little miscast — he’s meant to be 19 but looks older, which undercuts the movie’s central dynamic, which depends on his being much young and callow.
Best Scene: The opening is brilliant. As an engaging jazz score plays, we look at the windshield of the car being driven by Krystyna (Jolanta Umecka) and Andrzej (Leon Niemczyk) — at it, but not through it. Their faces are perfectly abscured by the beautiful, shifting reflections of the trees their driving under, so we see them but they’re perfectly
anonymous. Just as the song comes to an end, they pass into sunlight, and their faces are revealed. Really masterful. If only every thing that follows lived up to it.
File Under: great openings, tension, tight spaces, sexual jealousy, sailing