Kanal (1957)

Kanalkanal poster
Directed by Andrzej Wajda
Written by Jerzy Stefan Stawinski
1957/Poland
Zespol Filmowy “Kadr”
First viewing/Netflix rental

Halinka: It’s easier to die when you’re in love.

Wajda gives us love, beauty, and horror in a Warsaw sewer.

It is September 1944 and we are witnessing the last days of the Warsaw uprising.  The resistance is down to the last few companies of its fighters.  The company commanded by Lt. Zadra is now reduced to the size of a platoon.  We are introduced to a number of men and women and watch their various reactions as they wait for the action they know will be their last.  Rather than being summoned to battle where they are holed up, however, they are ordered to proceed downtown where the populace is being summarily executed in the streets.  The only safe route is underground.

Kanal-AndrzejWajda

Unlike the Vienna sewers of The Third Man, the Warsaw sewers are a foul-smelling cesspool of excrement.  It is dark and the men struggle for most of the film to find an exit.  Meanwhile, the Nazis are introducing poison gasses and hanging booby traps.  The stories of the various characters continue to be followed.  One of the main stories concerns a wounded man who is being assisted by a woman who has consorted with the Germans for favors but who loves him.403ca22ff002e38920b7ce42be47d047

This film has one of the truly great endings ever.  It is exquisitely shot and lit and the character portraits are telling.  The film celebrates the heroism of Poles without ever feeling propagandistic.  Highly recommended.

Clip – no subtitles

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