Knife in the Water
After directing a string of acclaimed shorts, the young Roman Polanski assembled a small crew and mostly unprofessional cast in his native Poland to shoot this full-length thriller. The spare, tense film remains one of Polanski's most striking efforts, a cool, detached character study with stark, high-contrast black-and-white visuals to match. Polanski may have seen himself in the character of the cunning, disaffected drifter, a possibility bolstered by the fact that he dubbed his own voice over Zygmunt Malanowicz's for the film's final cut. Though Polanski was obviously taking cues from the late 1950s/early 1960s work of Michelangelo Antonioni and even Ingmar Bergman, the movie retains a hip, modern feel all its own; throughout his career, Polanski would revisit the concept of the disaffected anti-hero and his tortured relations with women. Knife in the Water brought Polanski to the attention of the European film community, as well as the American Motion Picture Academy, who nominated the film against Federico Fellini's 8 1/2 for Best Foreign Language Film in 1964.