In 1963, Roman Polanski’s debut feature became the first Polish film to ever be nominated for an Academy Award. It lost to Federico Fellini’s brilliant 8 1/2, certainly no disgrace. The film’s American premiere was at the First New York Film Festival before beginning a regular theatrical run at the Beekman Theater in Manhattan. The film garnered plenty of publicity. In conjunction with an article on the NYFF, Polanski’s film made the cover of the September 20th 1963 issue of TIME Magazine. To say the least, It was an auspicious start for the young Polish filmmaker. The film itself is a three character psychological thriller containing more than enough tension, sexual and otherwise, to fill its 94 minute running time. The plot is incidental to the ironic atmosphere and dialogue between the characters that cuts deep, like the huge knife the young man carries on his person.
Andrezj (Leon Niemczyk) , a middle aged man and his young beautiful wife, Krystyna (Jolanta Umecka) are driving in the countryside heading toward the lake for a Sunday boating trip. You can feel the tension between the couple right at the beginning with Andrezj noticeably irritated with Krsytyna’s driving. Upset herself, she eventually pulls over and lets him take over the driving. Half a mile down the road a young, good looking hitchhiker (Zygmunt Malanowicz) forces the couple to stop their car by standing in the middle of the road. “You’re lights are still on,” he monchalantly tells Andrezj. Annoyed, Andrezj tells him, that if he had performed this stunt a half a mile back, he would have been dead, snidely getting a dig in at his wife’s driving. The tension between the couple remains evident, though the wife has not said a word. The husband continues pushing buttons, getting in another dig at his wife telling her, “oh sure, you would pick the guy up.” Exasperated by her demeanor, Andrezj practically drags the young hitchhiker into the car. Continue reading