27 March 2005
Knife in the Water
Roman Polanski uses the camera throughout his film Knife in the Water to represent the numerous differences between the characters and specifically how he wanted them to be portrayed. Polanski uses the camera to bring the audience directly into the tense, energetic, and insightful nature of his scenes. Through these characteristics he is able to display these characters as dysfunctional, maybe even touching on similarities to many humans in society. Because of this, Polanski found great success in his specific uses of camera techniques and depictions of his characters. The detailed scenes found throughout Knife in the Water help illustrate the prevailing obsession, intensity, and discomfort hovering over the three characters.
The camera manipulations begin right away in the film and proceed till the end with the characters and their settings as the only focus. The audience first views the relationship of the married couple, Krystyna and Andrzej through an unclear car windshield, reflecting the vast empty trees around them. Because of this lack of insight into the opening scene, the audience can only assume the two are a couple by their closeness shown in the car, although it seems to be uncomfortable for them. This gives the idea that they have been together for sometime and have brushed off the need for communication. The closeness Polanski uses to depict the couple in every scene is soon broken up by the newly added third party, the young hitchhiker. By giving him no name, Polanski seems to have him solely represent the drastic contrast between the couple and him. Because of this beginning comparison, the tension between the characters starts to form.
The tension also forms in the sense that the characters have no specific roles yet, leaving them all competing for dominance in this situation. The drive for dominance begins with the young hitchhiker and Andrzej when Andrzej orders the young man to coil up the rope. Polanski’s close up of Andrzej and positioning of him over the young man show he wants to be considered the dominant one in this event. The view of the youth from the camera in this scene shows his child-like qualities when he calls Andrzej a “drill sergeant”, but then completes the task anyhow. Tension between these two men continues when the knife is first shown. Polanski keeps the hitchhiker in the foreground and the couple in the background to once again show their differences, as well as the building tension. The couple is depicted close together again, while the young boy seems to control this scene. This infers that the boy holds power over them that can be seen as if it is through his own eyes. This “view from the characters eyes” is once again used with Andrzej when he watches his wife and the young boy walk across the pier together. The view is extremely effective in creating a build up of even more tension between the two men. This rivalry finally becomes dismantled when Krystyna and the hitchhiker are alone on the boat together. The close up of the two and their kiss creates sexual tension and victory for the young boy over Andrzej. These visual effects make it easy for Polanski to demonstrate and depict the true qualities of the characters and the tension between them all.
Polanski uses other camera manipulations to help display the tension between the three characters as well as their isolated state from the rest of society. This can be seen in all of Polanski’s long shots of the boat on the lake or of the couple’s car. There is never another boat or car ever shown in any of the scenes. This causes a desolate feeling and complete and utter hopelessness for the three. On the other hand, it also adds to the tension because of the newly shown loneliness of each character. The positioning of the three characters on the boat also shows the tension in a triangular sense, making the known statement “three’s a crowd” seem true in this instance. Polanski also concentrates on the characters feet numerous times in the film. This helps show a characters change of action, emotion, or decision