Tensions rise when an older couple picks up a young hitchhiker
and invites him onto their sailboat simply to mock his lack of skill.
Knife in the Water (1962)
Directed by Roman Polanski
Written by Jakub Goldberg, Roman Polanski, Jerzy Skolimowski
Starring Leon Niemczyk, Jolanta Umecka, Zygmunt Malanowicz
Oscar Nominations - Best Foreign Film
Knife in the Water was the film that introduced the world to Polish filmmaker Roman Polanski, whose talented eye would make him one of the most well-known auteurs of the 20th century, even before the scandal. It was also Poland's first Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Film. However, Knife in the Water is quite a dull affair, in which we watch a rich couple pick up a hitchhiker for the sake of amusement aboard their boat. That's it. Up until the last twenty minutes, this is the entire film. Not exactly Rosemary's Baby.
We follow Andrzej and Krystyna, a couple who pick up an unnamed young man and invite them to chill with them on their sailboat for the day. When he doesn't know how to sail, and tensions start to rise between the young man and Andrzej, the three start to bicker and quickly go from budding friends to possible murderers. The build-up to the third act, in which Andrzej knocks the young man off the boat by accident and thinks he's murdered him, is so slow that it's virtually nonexistent. The only thing we know about the three characters is that they're all terrible people who enjoy berating others for their amusement, even the hitchhiker. It's hard to get invested in the story when there really isn't one.
Knife in the Water is beautifully filmed and the score is jazzy and memorable, but the story suffers because it's just too boring to get excited about. If you're not interested in the film, how can you possibly enjoy it? Polanski went on to make some unforgettable cinematic classics, but his first film needed more work, and I doubt I'll ever watch it again.