Knife in the Water: Polanski’s Brilliant Debut A
The brilliant Roman Polanski was turned down by the state’s acting school but was accepted as a student at the famous Polish Film School at Lodz. During his five years (1954 59) there, he appeared as an actor in a number of Polish films and directed several documentary shorts.
One of these, Two Men and a Wardrobe, a 15minute semi surrealistic exercise, won international awards, including third prize at the Brussels World’s Fair international competition of experimental films.
After graduating from the school, Polanski spent two years in Paris, where he made a short, The Fat and the Lean, a study of a master slave relationship in which he played one of the two parts, the lean servant.
Returning to Poland, he made the award-winning short Mammals and his first feature film, Knife in the Water a mature, subtle psychological triangle drama that catapulted the young director into international prominence.
Co-written by Polanski, Jakub Goldberg and Jerzy Skolimowski (who later became a director), the tale centers on a triangle, a married couple, who pick up a young hitchhiker and invite him to a weekend on their boat. Psychological tensions and sexual conflicts build up, eventually turning violent.
The Polish government denounced the film, which motivated Polanski to leave his country and move to Paris, and then Hollywood, where he enjoyed a distinguished career (including “Chinatown”).
The film won the critics’ prize at the Venice Film Fest and was nominated for an Academy Award as best foreign language film.
The winner, however, was Fellini’s “81/2.”
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