Still choosing to not have a television, I have been partaking in movies and crappy t.v. shows (Millionaire Matchmaker, Vampire Diaries) online. Last night I watched Roman Polanski’s first film from the early 1960’s. The film, titled “Knife in the Water” is cinematically and visually stunning. Originally in Polish and subtitled in english the pace moves slow but not slow enough for me to lose interest. I thought of “Death 24x’s per Second” by Laura Mulvey as Polanski, pre-scandal, utilizes the cinematic theories of the uncanny. He rotates between the view point of each of the three characters as well as viewpoints of inanimate objects; a sailboat, car, tall grass growing along the side of a canal.
I found myself engaged with the protagonists (a young couple on a drive, a hitch-hiker they pick up and take sailing for the day) and enjoyed the subtle uses of a glance, the rapid camera changes and the mysterious intrigue wondering what will happen next. Given the title and the sense of impending doom one might associate with “Knife in the Water” I found myself waiting for the murderous rampage destined to occur.
Instead of death or a bloody mishap, we are given an almost accidental drowning that results in the older man, who assumes he is guilty of murder, swimming away only to leave his devastated wife on board the sailboat. The young (?) blond climbs aboard after having clung to a nearby buoy and the two intertwine apprehensively at first, in a passionate 1960’s, tongue-less makeout session.
The film ends with the woman bringing the boy ashore, returning to her husband who is in deep, guilt ridden contemplation of going to the police, and as they drive, we are left at a crossroad; a sign informing us of a police station 5km away. The knowledge of a murder that didn’t take place rests on the hands and in the mind of the woman and whether or not she lets her husband confess remains open ended.
The film is a slice in a day, during a time that seemed less complicated but in fact ironically, coming from Polanski, carries an emotional/moralistic dilemma.
“Pleasure in looking has always been split between active/male and passive/female. The determining male gaze projects its fantasy onto the female figure, which is styled accordingly. Women in their traditional exhibitionist role are simultaneously looked at and displayed, with their appearance coded for strong visual impact….”(Laura Mulvey-taken from her essay entitled Visual Pleasure in Narrative Cinema”)
— Posted from my iPhone