#130: Knife in the Water

Knife in the Water (1962) - Dir. Roman Polanski

Part of the Top 150 Films series

Polanski’s ability to wring unbearable tension out of confined spaces and claustrophobic characters was never better than in his debut feature. Rather than the possibility of supernatural events, Knife in the Water uses its dangerous and unsettling surrounding — water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink! — and the machismal energy of its trio of actors to render a simple story (couple pick up hitchhiker and take him sailing, with ambiguous consequences) extremely well told. More than anything, Knife in the Water is almost a fable about the dangers of being patronising. Despite being a razor-sharp 94 minutes in length, Andrzej, Krystyna and the hitchhiker (especially so, even though we never learn his name) all feel like people I’ve met in my past — with all their neuroses and jealousies and complexes in tact — rather than characters. That two of them had never acted a day in their lives is astonishing.