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Film / Knife in the Water

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Knife in the Water (original foreign title: Nóż w wodzie) is a Polish film from 1962. It was the feature-film debut of Roman Polański.

Andrzej and Krystyna, a middle-aged man and his young wife, are driving to a lake to go sailing. On the way, they pick up a young man who is hitchhiking. Andrzej and Krystyna let the young man come on the boat with them. Tensions gradually rise as the three of them sail the lake.

Knife in the Water was the first Polish film ever to be nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards (it lost to 8). It established Roman Polanski as a rising star. It was the only feature Polanski made in his native Poland before emigrating to France.

It is the only Polanski film to be rated G by the MPAA.

This film provides examples of:

  • Beautiful All Along: Krystyna is made up to be somewhat plain when she is introduced. When they get on the boat she dons a bikini, lets her hair down, and is revealed as exceptionally attractive.
  • The Blade Always Lands Pointy End In: The knife is thrown by both men a handful of times and always lands pointy-end in...until the climactic moment when it ends up overboard.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: In an extremely bizarre case, Polanski himself handled the subtitling of the DVD release, which features loads of missing dialogue and some outright mistranslation. If you want the full and true experience of the film, you need to know Polish.
  • Brick Joke: "You're leaving the wipers?"
  • Camera Tricks: Famously, Polański managed to cram a camera and its operator inside the tiny yacht and shoot dialogues between the actors. He never revealed how he managed to do it, while the space was so small the actors already barely fit.
  • Cue the Rain: How to make the situation of a sand-banked boat even worse? Add heavy rain.
  • Double-Meaning Title: "Knife in the Water" is a reference both to the literal knife which falls into the water, and the sailboat itself cutting its way through the water like a knife. Lampshaded by the DVD release's cover art where the sailboat is represented with the knife as its hull.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The film spans a full day, from one morning to the next.
  • Five-Finger Fillet: The young man plays this game with his switchblade. Andrzej is jealous and tries to do it himself, but can't manage very well. This is only part of the escalating spiral of tension and violence.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Andrzej is quite plainly jealous of the young man.
  • Jump Cut: The shot of the young man on the boat with his hand up in the air jumps between two shots of his hand, and there's another towards the end when the car leaves the habor.
  • Love Triangle: Grows steadily more apparent over the course of the sailing trip.
  • Minimalist Cast: Only three characters appear in the movie.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Jolanta Umecka's nude scene was the first in the history of Polish film.
  • No Name Given: The young man is never named.
  • Phallic Weapon: The young man's knife. It plays in to the jealously that Andrzej clearly is feeling. Eventually, Andrzej decides to assert his superiority by throw it at the young man, which accidentally goes overboard, visually providing the titular Knife in the Water.
  • Red Herring: As soon as the young man reveals the switchblade, it seems like a sure thing that the film will turn violent at some point. It does, kind of, but not that way—Andrzej throws the knife into the lake, he and the young man fight, and the young man falls overboard.
  • Same Language Dub: Two of the three parts—the young man and the woman—were re-dubbed by other actors in post-production. Roman Polanski provided the voice of the young man after Zygmunt Malanowicz's voice was judged to be too deep.
  • That Cloud Looks Like...: The young man plays this game with clouds as they sail on the lake.
  • Toplessness from the Back: We see Krystyna's back when she changes clothes.
  • Visual Title Drop: Andrzej winds up throwing the young man's knife into the lake.