Knife in the water is a tale of three thrill seekers. Andrezej and Krystyna are middle aged, middle class, married couple who have in their day lead an adventurous life. But that was long ago. Time has caught up with them and they are reduced to the monotony of routine. Their ritual of travelling in an open lake is not an adventure that it used to be.
Within the first few scenes it becomes quite clear that Andrezej is a fellow who likes to be in control. He is the kind of guy who is not content letting his wife drive the car while he sits twiddling his thumbs listening to the same old song on the radio. His wife Krystyna is tired of Andrezej acting like a boss. She does not say much and when she does her replies are curt and her manner is stiff.
One day on their way to their yacht they encounter a young traveler on the road. They let him in when he asks for a lift. Their conversation reveals that the boy is a nomad. On reaching the yacht Andrezej invites the boy to come with them. He could use a helping hand. The boy has never been on water and he prefers to stay on his feet. Andrezej sensing his reluctance says that this will be an adventure for him and to tempt him he offers him a ride all the way to his destination if he agrees to come with them. The boy relents and joins the couple on their journey.
On the boat the characters get to know each other better. The young man is quite an enigma. He carries with him a big knife. He is haughty and rebellious. He resents the authority that Andrezej tires to assert on him but in the presence of his wife he is sheepish.
Andrezej sees himself in this nineteen year old kid. He thinks that he can teach him a thing or two about the way of life. He is a man after all. He has seen the world. He has everything that a man could ask for.
The young boy is infatuated with Krystyna. He steals glances of her. In a particular scene when all three of them are inside the cabin, Krystyna is undressing, she sees that the boy is looking at her and asks him to look elsewhere. While her husband is busy pouring a drink in the glass the boy can not resist the temptation of looking at her and catches a quick furtive glimpse of her body.
Andrezej himself is trying to win krystyna over. He is aware that she has been cold to him in the past. He wants to win back her love. Bringing this young boy on this ship is probably is way of showing to Krystyna who the real man is. He wants to prove it to her that she is a lucky girl.
Krystyna is the most interesting character of the three. She has little dialog in the film and while it seems that Andrezej is the driving force of the story it is actually her. Her casual manner is disarming. She has this very subtle way of withdrawing herself from Andrezej and at the same time keeping the young boy in the loop. She is the cause of the latent tension between the two males. Each of them fighting for the prize of her affection.
One of the things that stands out in the film is Roman Polanski's excellent camerawork. It is hard to believe that this is his debut film. He successfully manages to capture the vastness of the lake and the confinement of the boat in a single shot. He switches the angles in clever ways to give an impact to each and every scene.
For instance in one scene the boat gets stuck in shallow waters and Andrezej and the boy step out to drag it manually. The angle shifts behind their back depicting the effort that the two guys are putting in to drag the boat. The angle then shifts once again to the front bringing into view Krystyna who is comfortably stretching out on the boat. Nothing is said in between the scenes but the message is conveyed nonetheless.
The scenery is beautiful. Even though the film is black and white the environments look captivating. I can only imagine how good it would look in color.
While I was watching this movie I could not shake the feeling that I had seen it all before. I could not remember it back then but the plot of the movie is similar to The talented Mr. Ripley. But I guess it is all coincidental. One other thing that can be a deterrence to watching this film is that it is in polish, which is understandable since this was Polanski's first film and he is polish. The subtitles do a fine job but if you don't like hearing a foreign language you might not like it.
I can recommend this movie to any one who is looking for a tense drama. Just don't go expecting a heart racing thriller and you will enjoy it quite a lot.