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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 Polanski.

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 ). It established Roman Polanski as a rising star. It was the only feature Polanski made in his native Poland before emigrating to France.


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, and is revealed as exceptionally attractive.
  • The Blade Always Lands Pointy End In: The young man throws his knife at a wood panel on the wall. Naturally, it sticks point-in.
  • 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 in.
  • Cue the Rain: How to make the situation of a sand-banked boat even worse? Add heavy rain.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The film spans over a 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.
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  • Green-Eyed Monster: Andrzej is quite plainly jealous of the young man.
  • Jump Cut: 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 to throw the young man's 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.
  • Title Drop: A visual one, as Andrzej winds up throwing, the young man's knife into the lake.
  • Toplessness from the Back: We see Krystyna's back when she changes clothes.
  • Your Cheating Heart: After the young man falls overboard, Andrzej and Krystyna think that he drowned. They fight, and an angry Andrzej jumps off the boat, and swims to shore. The young man was hiding behind a buoy, and climbs onto the boat. Krystyna promptly has sex with him.


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