Friday, October 25, 2013

Knife in the Water

Directed by Roman Polanski and written by Polanski, Jerzy Skolimowski, and Jakub Goldberg, Noz w wodzie (Knife in the Water) is the story about a hitchhiker who joins a couple on a weekend yacht trip where sexual tension and a troubling storm causes all sorts of trouble. The film is an exploration into a world where only three people are in the middle of a lake where two men both want the same woman as they play a game of psychological one-upmanship. Starring Leon Niemczyk, Jolanta Umecka, and Zygmunt Malanowicz. Noz w wodzie is a captivating yet entrancing film from Roman Polanski.

The film is a simple story about a couple who decides to spend the weekend going boating on a lake where they pick up a hitchhiker and invite him where things suddenly go wrong. Largely as this young hitchhiker (Zygmunt Malanowicz) is someone who hasn’t had enough experience boating but is attracted to Krystyna (Jolanta Umecka) much to the chagrin of her husband Andrezj (Leon Niemczyk). Eventually, Andrezj and the hitchhiker try to outdo each other in a game of wit where a troubling storm eventually creates more problems. It’s a film that is about three people stuck in a boat in the middle of a lake as they all try to see how they can live with one another where these two men find themselves at odds of sorts but also try to impress this woman who is intrigued but also realizes that something won’t go right as her husband is definitely trying to showoff and teach the young hitchhiker how to run a boat and such.

The film’s screenplay doesn’t carry much of a plot yet makes up for it with its sexual and psychological tension between three people in the story. Largely as Andrezj is a man with a lot of experience while the hitchhiker is just a 19-year old student who had never been in the water as he doesn’t know anything about boating as he also doesn’t know how to swim. Still, the hitchhiker does find a way to learn while he also carries a pocketknife that he uses whenever he needs it as it also brings some suspense to the story. For Krystyna, she knows what is happening as she watches from afar as she is definitely more intrigued by the hitchhiker as she notices the similarities in the two men as they’re both immature in some ways as they both try to show off. Much of the film’s first two acts is more low-key in the suspense in favor of something a bit more comical but it does get darker in the third act because of a storm and the rising tension that is occurring in the film.

Roman Polanski’s direction is very stylish as he largely sets the film on a boat in the middle of a lake in Poland. While the film early on is in the road where there is that sense of style of how Andrezj and Krystyna meet the hitchhiker where they nearly hit him with their car. Much of the direction has moments where Polanski keeps things simple yet he creates some dazzling compositions in the way he puts the actors in a frame that really keeps the film so engaging to watch. Even at one point where he would have one actor in a close-up where another is nearby in a medium shot while another person is way in the back. It is all part of the sense of style and dramatic tension that Polanski creates where the boat and the lake that they’re in also acts as characters in the film.

The element of suspense is very low-key in the way Polanski builds up the tension where it’s obvious that Krystyna is an object of desire for the two men as she often appears in a bikini while there’s a couple of moments where she’s stripping down. In some ways, she’s trying to seduce them very subtly to see who will in this battle of wits. Yet, the tension does eventually build up to the point where Andrezj and the hitchhiker finally start to get at odds with each other as it creates this very intense climax that is more psychological instead of physical while it has this ending that quite complex to play into everything that had just happened. Overall, Polanski creates a very smart and engrossing film about three people stuck in a boat in the middle of a lake.

Cinematographer Jerzy Lipman does amazing work with the film‘s black-and-white photography to play into that sense of style in its look as well as creating some exotic imagery to play into the tension and landscape of the film. Editor Halina Prugar does excellent work with the editing as it has this element of style with its jump-cuts and rhythms to play into its suspense. Production designer Boleslaw Kamykowski does nice work with some of the interiors of the boat to play into cramped it is for three people. The sound work of Halina Paszkowska is terrific for the intimacy that plays out in the boat as well as some scenes set in the lake when they stop the boat. The film’s music by Krzysztof Komeda is fantastic for its jazz-laden score with its mixture of rhythmic piano playing and blaring saxophones courtesy of Bernt Rosengren.

The film’s small yet brilliant cast do astounding work in the performances as Zygmunt Malanowicz has this very youthful yet cool look to his performance as a young hitchhiker trying to prove himself though his dubbing is provided by Polanski himself. Jolanta Umecka is radiant as Krystyna as this woman who sort of looks prim and nerdy but is smoldering with sex appeal when she’s in a bikini as she brings a lot of depth as this object of desire while her voice is dubbed by Anna Ciepielewska. Leon Niemczyk is superb as Andrezj as this man who thinks he is the man as he has everything as he tries to challenge the hitchhiker in a game of wits that intensifies due to Andrezj’s cockiness.

Noz w wodzie is a magnificent film from Roman Polanski. Armed with a great cast and an intriguing premise, it’s a film that showcases Polanski’s mastery in the art of suspense as well as the unique interplay between two men and one woman in a boat. Notably as it showcases the element of foolishness between two men as they fight for a woman. In the end, Noz w wodzie is an outstanding film from Roman Polanski.

Roman Polanski Films: Repulsion - Cul-de-Sac - The Fearless Vampire Killers - Rosemary's Baby - Macbeth (1971 film) - (What?) - Chinatown - The Tenant - Tess - (Pirates) - Frantic - Bitter Moon - Death and the Maiden - The Ninth Gate - The Pianist - Oliver Twist (2005 film) - The Ghost Writer - Carnage - (Based on a True Story) - (An Officer and a Spy) - (The Palace)

© thevoid99 2013

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