Knife in the Water

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Knife in the Water
Nóż w wodzie (movie poster).jpg
Original Polish poster
Directed byRoman Polanski
Produced byStanislaw Zylewicz
Written byRoman Polanski
Jakub Goldberg
Jerzy Skolimowski
StarringLeon Niemczyk
Jolanta Umecka
Zygmunt Malanowicz
Roman Polanski (voice)
Anna Ciepielewska (voice)
Music byKrzysztof T. Komeda
CinematographyJerzy Lipman
Edited byHalina Prugar-Ketling
Distributed byZespol Filmowy
Release date
  • 9 March 1962 (1962-03-09)
Running time
94 minutes

Knife in the Water (Polish: Nóż w wodzie) is a 1962 Polish drama film co-written and directed by Roman Polanski, which was nominated for Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Polanski's first feature film, it features three characters in a story of rivalry and sexual tension.

Knife in the Water has garnered acclaim from film critics since its release, and is one of Polanski's best-reviewed works.


Andrzej (Leon Niemczyk) and Krystyna (Jolanta Umecka) are driving to a lake to go sailing when they come upon a young man (Zygmunt Malanowicz) hitchhiking in the middle of the road. After nearly hitting him, Andrzej invites the young man along. When they arrive at the lake, instead of leaving the young man behind, Andrzej invites him to go sailing with them. The young man accepts the offer, and, not knowing much about sailing, must learn many hard lessons from Andrzej.

Meanwhile, tension gradually builds between Andrzej and the hitchhiker as they vie for the attentions of Krystyna. The title refers to the major turning point in the film when Andrzej taunts the young man with the latter's treasured pocket knife, which is accidentally lost overboard. A fight ensues between Andrzej and the hitchhiker and the latter falls into the water. Andrzej and his wife search for him, but cannot find him and assume that he has drowned, since earlier he said that he could not swim. Andrzej and his wife quarrel about what to do, and Andrzej swims to shore to fetch the police. When the young man realizes that Andrzej has gone he comes out from hiding behind a buoy on the lake and swims to the yacht. There he sees Krystyna naked drying off. He boards the yacht and Krystyna tells him he is as bad as Andrzej but sexual attraction wins out and they have sex, off screen. Krystyna sails back to the dock, the man jumps off and goes on his way before Andrzej appears and takes charge again. He wants to go to the police to report the young man missing. Krystyna tells him that the young man returned and she was unfaithful. Andrzej does not know what to believe and at the road junction the car does not move.



Knife in the Water was shot by Roman Polanski in 1961 using only three actors. It marked Polanski's debut as a feature-length director. Two of the actors (Jolanta Umecka, who plays Krystyna and Zygmunt Malanowicz, who plays the young man) had virtually no previous professional acting experience. Krzysztof Komeda composed the film's music and the featured saxophonist was Bernt Rosengren.

Being filmed on the water (in the Polish Lake District Masuria), and largely within the confines of a sailboat and liferaft, the film was technically difficult. While the sailboat was large enough for the three actors, it was quite cramped for the film crew, who often had to hang over the side of the boat with safety harnesses in order to shoot.[1]

Critical reception[edit]

Knife in the Water was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 1963 Academy Awards,[2] the first Polish motion picture to receive this kind of recognition. Time used a still from the film, with Umecka and Malanowicz on the verge of a kiss, as the cover of an issue featuring international cinema.[3] The film has been included in lists of the best debut feature films[4] and was ranked number 61 in Empire magazine's "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema" in 2010.[5]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 100% approval rating based on 33 reviews, with an average score of 8.29/10.[6]

In the 2015 poll conducted by Polish Museum of Cinematography in Łódź, Knife in the Water was ranked as the fourth greatest Polish film of all time.[7]

Home video[edit]

Knife in the Water was released on VHS in 1996,[8] and on DVD in 2003 by The Criterion Collection.[9]

In other media[edit]

Knife in the Water was the basis for a low budget 2001 American film Kaaterskill Falls, set in the Catskill Mountains.

Polański himself had an offer to make an English-language, colour remake, with a Hollywood cast (including Henry Fonda), but he refused, saying he did not want to do a remake of a movie that was already good.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Knife in the Water".
  2. ^ "The 36th Academy Awards (1964) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-11-03.
  3. ^ "International Cinema". Time. September 20, 1963. Retrieved April 24, 2011.
  4. ^ "OFCS Top 100: 100 Best First Films". Online Film Critics Society. October 4, 2010. Archived from the original on July 22, 2011. Retrieved April 24, 2011.
  5. ^ "61. Knife in the Water". The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema. Empire. Retrieved April 24, 2011.
  6. ^ "Knife in the Water (1962)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  7. ^ "Polska – Najlepsze filmy według wszystkich ankietowanych". Muzeum Kinematografii w Łodzi (in Polish). 2015-12-28. Retrieved 2019-11-24.
  8. ^ Knife in the Water (VHS). Homevision. October 29, 1996.
  9. ^ Knife in the Water (DVD). The Criterion Collection. September 16, 2003.

External links[edit]