Roman’s other three-actor feature besides Death and the Maiden, and this one truly has only three actors. There isn’t another soul so much as glimpsed in the background. And it’s an amazing film – don’t know how I didn’t appreciate it the first time I watched, but that maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention. Polanski has his actors pulling shapes, as the British say, posing to form geometric patterns across the screen at all times, like a suspense flick made by Maya Deren.
Married couple who seems more bored-and-businesslike than sweetly-in-love picks up a third wheel young hitchhiker and takes him along on their overnight boat cruise. Why would they do such a thing? Because the husband has an overwhelming urge to prove himself over other men and a penchant for playing mind games, and detects similar traits in the young man. Splendid ending: husband thinks the hitcher has drowned, swims to shore while the wife finds the hitcher still alive and has sex with him, nonchalantly confessing later to the husband. The husband drives away with her, reaches an intersection… turn left to go home, believing his wife cheated, or turn right for the police station, believing himself a murderer.
“Polanski was given a proposal to remake the film in English with some known Hollywood actors, but he turned it down as he didn’t want to repeat himself.” Maybe Michael Haneke has heard this bit of trivia, seeing how his own remade family-interrupted psychological drama has similarities to this one.
Cinematographer Jerzy Lipman (of Wajda’s A Generation) wouldn’t work with Polanski again after this film, possibly because he dropped the camera into the lake at one point. Movie failed to win an oscar for coming out the same year as Fellini’s 8 1/2.