Knife in the Water

Movie Information

In Brief: Roman Polanski's first feature has become an art house staple and retains its importance in the filmmaker's oeuvre. It's a good, solid character study of three characters -- an upwardly mobile (in Polish terms) couple and the brash young man they ill-advisedly take with them on their boat. It's masterfully done and contains many of the elements of the mature Polanski, making it a key work, but it's also rather slow going.
Genre: Drama
Director: Roman Polanski
Starring: Leon Niemczyk, Jolanta Umecka, Zygmunt Malanowicz
Rated: NR

I do not doubt or even question the importance of this film to the career of Roman Polanski, but I’ve never really enjoyed it. I was too young to get it at all when I first saw it in high school on TV. (Mostly, it bored me then.) I “get it” now and I can appreciate it, but I have to think long and hard to come up with a Polanski movie I wouldn’t rather be watching when I see it. When this last ran locally, I said: “Roman Polanski’s debut feature Knife in the Water (1962) is the film that made him an international figure in the cinematic world — and ironically, still stands as his only Polish-language feature, since it led to his departure for France and then to British cinema. The appeal of the film — a simple three-character story designed for getting the most out of a very small budget — is obvious even today. The movie is an economical exercise in the growing sexual and socio-economic tension that takes place in one afternoon when a middle-aged sportswriter and his much younger wife pick up a hitchhiking student and then invite him along for a day on their sailboat. The impetus of it all comes from the aging writer’s desire to show off how much more worldly and knowledgeable he is than the young man — and what results from that.”

Full review here:

Classic World Cinema by Courtyard Gallery will present Knife in the Water Friday, Feb. 22 at 8 p.m. at Phil Mechanic Studios, 109 Roberts St., River Arts District, upstairs in the Railroad Library).  Info: 273-3332,


About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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