A Knife in the Water Critical Review

A Knife in the Water
Critical Review
Paul Fischer

The form is simple, with only three actors and shot in black and white. But “A Knife in the Water” is recognized as one of the greatest debut films in cinema history. It is a masterwork with beautiful cinematography and convincing acting led by new star director Roman Polanski. The film, while not as dark as Polanski’s later works such as “Rosemary’s Baby” or “The Pianist”, shows his complete mastery of the human psyche. It primarily explores the childish feuding between two men, and a younger man’s competition for the wife.

The film style gives power to the script, which makes sense because Roman Polanski also helped to write the piece. His involvement on many different levels is apparent, benefiting the film. Its long shots of the characters relating to their surroundings makes the film’s progression organic. The conflict between the husband and the hitchhiker is brilliantly illustrated in sweeping shots on the water. The woman, Christina, is portrayed in a sensual light, further adding tension to the two men’s relationship. The misogynistic perspective of the film puts Christina on an unwilling pedestal and illustrates the traditional patriarchal society of Polanski.
Despite the origins in communist Poland, the film incorporates American Jazz throughout. Christopher Komenda’s score is mostly made up of small-ensemble jazz. This evokes the sounds of America in the 1920’s, comparing the aimlessness of the characters at sea to those of the so-called ‘Lost Generation’ during that time period. The artistically selected black-and-white filming further adds to this Film Noire atmosphere. The smoky air of the film prevails to the end when the young hitchhiker seduces the man’s wife.
Polanski’s film is a brilliant tale about relationships on the open sea. Its dramatic look at the human spirit extends beyond the Iron Curtain from whence it came.

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