I rarely ever hitch-hike, rarely give or take a lift. I always plan my trip/journey and give myself enough buffer time, be it public transport or my own vehicle. The only time I have given a ride was to a hawaldar who wanted to get home after his duty hours. And the only time I have asked for a lift was at the behest of my friend, while in Houston standing outside Randalls with 4 polybags filled with groceries. We actually lived very close to Randalls and always walked home, but on that day my roomie was feeling really lazy and a fellow countryman pitied our state and obliged.
Anyways, this youngman in Knife In The Water, never believed in planning a trip and he never ever saw either a weather report or a compass for directions and ofcourse he never shied from asking for a ride. He came right in front of a speeding car, totally overconfident that he would not be run-over, and he actually got a ride to a destination nowhere. His arrival onto the screen was so abrupt that even Polanski did not find time enough to give him a name. Andrzej, a much older man with all wisdom and a beautiful wife Krystyna, not-so-gladly offered the youngman a ride. The couple were on their way to their boat, to enjoy a relaxed time by the lake. But this young intruder probably spoiled their plans. I use the word probably because Andrzej was not a bit hesitant when he invited the youngman to sail with them. He did not even take consent or discuss this with his wife before asking the youngman to join them and make him a party to their private moments.
Now, what is it with men that they do anything to seek a woman’s attention and/or to display their oneupmanship over the other! Yes, the same old pseudo-machismo came into play where Andrzej showed off his sailing experience and know-how and commanded the youngman to do all kinds of jobs with the sail, mast and tying-untying knots. But the youngman was not a bit embarassed about these trivialities, instead he showed his skills with his small penknife when he ran it between the fingers of his outstretched palms. Yes, that requires some talent and lot of guts too. So, while both men were occupied in their ego clash, Krystyna was busy cavorting in a two piece bikini, preparing soup and sunbathing in the boat. All this right infront of the youngman, without even doubting his nature or intention.
By the time the movie reached the half-way mark, I was still as confused then as I was when the movie began; never really understanding what the movie was about. There had to be a twist to the tale or some unforseen incident which would make the movie a little more interesting. But nothing was happening, the 3 of them had supper and drinks, played a few silly games and then hit the sack after setting an alarm for 5am as Andrzej had a meeting to attend at 9am, the next day.
Krystyna woke up much before the alarm went off, and to her surprise the youngman was already up. They were chatting when Andrzej opened his eyes and found his wife and the youngman to be out of his sight. He pocketed the youngman’s knife and then climbed to the deck. He was quite relieved to find the youngman on top of the mast and his wife sitting by the deck. There was a minor altercation between the two in which, first his knife went down the lake and then he did. But alas! he knew no swimming, or so he had confided earlier. The couple took chances to dive into the lake to find the youngman, but they couldn’t. They got back to the deck. Krystyna accused Andrzej of provoking the youngman and she even belittled his cheap antics which were just meant to scare the guy and boost his own ego. Being unable to take this insult, Andrzej made another attempt in a bid to find the youngman.
Does the youngman drown? If he does, would Andrzej forgive himself? Will Krystyna forgive him for the silly duel and will Andrzej forgive her if he gets to know that she cheated on him. How the movie ends is for you to find out, all I can say is that the couple return much wiser and with better understanding of each oher. While Andrzej is guilt-ridden with the thought of having killed the youngman, Krystyna is guilt-ridden with the thought of having having shared passionate moments with the youngman. How they face each other and handle life from here onwards, is the last and defining moment of the movie.
KITW was the first full length movie of Polanski. Shot in black and white, the movie captures the minute details of sailing and boats very well. Although the setup is a lake, we never really feel the absence of the blue waters mainly because the screenplay is so engaging. The tension between the 3 people on board is pretty palpable, and the ego clash is well handled. The movie was brilliantly shot and the jazz music makes for fantastic background score. This movie, made in 1962, was the first Polish movie to receive Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language movie. A special mention should be made of the performances of the 3 main leads, who showed a lot of restraint.
This is part of a post that was first published on PFC