Kanal

(Kanał, 1957)
   Andrzej Wajda's breakthrough film about the Warsaw Uprising (1 August-2 October 1944) based on Jerzy Stefan Stawinski's script. The film narrates the story of a Home Army (AK) unit that manages to escape German troops via the only route left—the city sewers—in which the majority of the fighters meet their deaths. From its opening sequence, Kanal depicts a bleak vision of defeat. The voice-over narration introduces the leading character-insurgents, offers laconic comments on them, and tells the viewers that they are watching the last hours of the characters' lives. The choice of the unusual environment (sewers) largely explains the use of expressionistic lighting, claustrophobic camera angles, and the darkness of the set (photography by Jerzy Lipman). It is a nightmarish underworld permeated by madness, death, and despair—full of dead bodies, German booby traps, and excrement. The Warsaw Uprising is a controversial subject in Poland to this day, and the release of Kanal, the first film to portray the legendary uprising, sparked passionate debates. In the film, Wajda neither glorifies the uprising, as was expected by the majority of his countrymen in 1957, nor does he criticize the official Communist stand on the "liberation" of Warsaw by the Soviet troops. Instead, he stresses the patriotism of the Home Army soldiers, their sense of duty, and their heroic yet futile effort. They gain sympathy as ill-fated casualties of the war and the victims of political manipulations. The film received the Special Jury Award at the 1957 Cannes Film Festival.
   See also Polish School.
   Historical Dictionary of Polish Cinema by Marek Haltof

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

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