#214 Knife in the Water

Watched: January 05 2019

Director: Roman Polanski

Starring: Leon Niemczyk, Jolanta Umecka, Zygmunt Malanowicz

Year: 1962

Runtime: 1h 34min

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After almost hitting a young man with their car, a couple angrily invite him to hitch a ride with them. They drive down to a lake, and the hitchhiker (Malanowicz) is invited to go sailing with the couple, Andrzej (Niemczyk) and Krystyna (Umecka), an offer he accepts for some reason.

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Clearly, none of these people had ever heard of a serial killer.

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Once out on the water, both men take turns being suddenly angry and/or insulted and aggressive towards each other while Krystyna lounges about, makes food and does a great job hiding anything which could be deemed a personality.

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There is really no trace of personality there until she gets wet… Which might be somewhat symbolic.

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Tension builds as the trio are exposed to harsh weather and alpha male competitions, and it culminates with the loss of the young man’s pocket knife in the water and his subsequent presumed drowning.

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“I just love a good game of hide and seek!”

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Now, the Norwegian translator for the DVD we watched apparently decided only half the lines were worth subtitling, so we may have missed a few things. Like major plot points. But the tension between the characters was clear even if the reason was not always so.

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We’re going to go out on a limb and assume that some of that tension might be because of the half naked woman whose attention the two men vie for.

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The entire movie is set in just two locations (albeit moving ones), a car and a boat, which we really enjoyed. We loved the crocodile, the tense start and the ambiguous ending. We also found the couple strangely adorable when they were in the water, despite their chilly relationship in the rest of the film.

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See? They look like a perfectly harmonious couple once they’ve been out swimming.

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Roman Polanski’s debut feature film is beautifully and interestingly shot, and the filming plays a huge part in building the tension. Especially for those of us who do not speak Polish and who are at the mercy of a translator who’s a really slow typist and who doesn’t have time to go back and fill in the blanks… We’re pretty sure we understood about two thirds of the dialogue though, so we’ll call that a win.

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No fun caption here. Just wanted to show you this cool shot.

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What we learned: It is a bit weird to invite a random hitchhiker to go sailing, right..? Also, don’t introduce a knife in the first act unless you’re going to use it by the third. And don’t introduce a woman in the first act unless you’re going to give her a personality by the third.

Next time: The Exterminating Angel (1962)

#160 Ashes and Diamonds/Popiół i diament

Watched: February 12 2018

Director: Andrzej Wajda

Starring: Zbigniew Cybulski, Ewa Krzyzewska, Waclaw Zastrzezynski, Adam Pawlikowski, Bogumil Kobiela (apologies for any spelling mistakes that may have occured)

Year: 1958

Runtime: 1h 43min

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Three guys with machine guns are lying in wait by a chapel. They kill two guys that come driving by, one of whom dies falling through a chapel door (and catching slightly on fire somehow). However, it turns out that the assassins have hit the wrong targets…

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“There is more than one car on this road? How inconsiderate. They can blame themselves for getting killed.”

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It’s the end of World War II in Poland, and the assassins, Maciek Chelmicki (Cybulski) and Andrzej (Pawlikowski) are after communist leader Szczuka (Zastrzezynski) who has recently returned to his home country. They decide to try again at local hotel Monopol, where Maciek takes a room and starts flirting with barmaid Krystyna (Krzyzewska).

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As Maciek picks the best, most romantic, and most atmospheric spots for dates, he is naturally successful in his pursuit of Krystyna.

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His newfound love, coupled with exposure to the grieving loved ones of his unintentional victims and the bodies of the dead men themselves, combine to change Maciek’s view of the world. He goes to his friend and superior officer Andrzej and tells him he doesn’t want to carry out this assassination. He wants to settle down with Krystyna and live in peace.

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Just him, his girl, and loads of shots. What a life!

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However, Andrzej is not sympathetic and tells Maciek backing out now will make him a traitor and that he’ll just have to tough it out. How will this all end?

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Rambo-style!

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Ashes and Diamonds is the third installment in Wajda’s war trilogy, and the second one on the list after Kanal. We loved the part in the crypt and Maciek’s decidedly ’80s vibe (we think it’s the sunglasses he sports and how the shadows often give the illusion of a mullet).

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The ultimate hipster – rocking a mullet before it was cool

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Like its predecessor, this film is quite weird and somewhat unsettling at times, with damaged women acting as saviours for damaged men, and lots of religious symbolism. Also, we found the dancing in the end reminiscent of Bergman’s The Seventh Seal. We really enjoyed it, and at an opportune moment, we will go back and watch the first film in the trilogy, A Generation (1955) even though it didn’t make the list.

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Seriously though – doesn’t this look like it could be a still from some 1980s cop movie..? The young, charming maverick paired up with the old, cranky, by-the-book veteran?

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What we learned: Shit always floats to the top. Also, we do not know enough about Poland 1945.

Next time: Dracula (1958)

#149 Kanal

Watched: December 6 2017

Director: Andrzej Wajda

Starring: Teresa Izewska, Tadeusz Janczar, Wienczyslaw Glinski, Tadeusz Gwiazdowski, Stanislaw Mikulski, Emil Karewicz, Teresa Berezowska, Vladek Sheybal

Year: 1957

Runtime: 1h 31min

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September 1944. The last days of the Warsaw Uprising. A small company of men (and women) are barricaded in an isolated part of town but it’s not long before they are attacked by Germans.

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Even in a war zone (or perhaps especially in one?) there’s time for flirting and light hanky panky.

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Surrounded, and with injured men, Lieutenant Zadra (Glinski) has no choice but to lead his company through the sewers to freedom, a tactic he’s not too keen on.

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And really, who can blame them for being less than thrilled? Pennywise might be down there!

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Stokrotka, or Daisy, (Izewska) who is familiar with the sewer system, offers to take care of the injured Korab (Janczar) who she is secretly in love with. She claims that the others will find their way easily as the exits are marked, but she overestimates the night vision of the soldiers.

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It may have gone very differently if they had at least opened their eyes

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As the company lose each other in the underground labyrinth, they each must brave the dangers that lurk: polluted air and water, gas, madness, and German grenades.

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Lesson: slippery sewer rocks and hand grenades are not a good combo

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Kanal is dark, suspenseful, and claustrophobic, and we loved it. We’re not sure whether the Warsaw sewer system is purgatory or one (or several) of Dante’s circles of Hell, but we know there’s no way we’re ever exploring it. Even if bad-ass Stokrotka is our guide.

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You can smell the stench through the screen

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Depressing though it is, this is also one of the best World War II films we’ve ever seen. We’re (very hesitantly) looking forward to Ashes and Diamonds (1958), hoping it may be a little bit more optimistic. But not really believing that.

 

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Just gonna add this here for extra effect

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What we learned: War is hell. But sewers are purgatory.

Next time: Paths of Glory (1957)