Andrzej (Leon Niemczyk) and Krystyna (Jolanta Umecka), a couple that
seems to have been married just a tad too long, want to spend their
weekend on their yacht, when on a whim, Andzej picks up a young hitchhiker
(Zygmunt Malanowicz) who likes to play with his knife just a little bit
too much to join them. Once on the yacht, Andzej misses no opportunity to
humiliate the young man, who's never been on a boat before and has thus no
yachting experience at all. But the more Andrzej humiliates him, the
keener the youngster gets to fight back, and soon the two seem to be
fighting for the position of the alpha male, a fight that gets more
serious by the minute and culminates in Andrzej stealing the young man's
knife and throwing it into the water - and in a fight he pushes the young
man into the water as well, even though he claimed he can't swim ... and
it looks as if the youngster has drowned.
Andzej and Krystyna get into a
fight over the young man's death which ultimately makes Andrzey bail out
and swim ashore on his own - which is when the young man shows up at the
yacht again, and in no time he has seduced Krystyna.
A few hours later,
Krystyna arrives ashore (she has since dropped the young man somewhere
else) to find Andrzej waiting for her. She confesses everything to
Andrzej, but he refuses to believe her, believing the young man to be
dead. For a moment there, he even thinks about giving himself up to the
police, but ultimately decides not to and continue his unhappy married
life with Krystyna just like before - which might be punishment enough.
Polanski's first feature film seems like a routine thriller only in
writing, as a movie it shows Polanski already at the top of his game, him
being a master of filming at confined spaces to reflect his characters'
psychology, to put suspense into very ordinary situations via clever
camerawork, and to turn a simple game of cat and mouse into an
intellectual challenge - and this all makes Knife in the Water the
first of his many masterpieces.