Andrzej Wajda – Kanal (1957)


Synopsis : At the end of the Warsaw uprising, the few remaining groups of Polish resistance are collapsing under the German onslaught. After taking heavy casualties, the 43 men and women fighters of Lt. Zadra (Wienczyslaw Glinski) are ordered back into the center of the city via the only route not completely controlled by the Germans, the sewers…

Wajda’s second entry is a harrowing, dark, cutting account of tragedy, based on a short story by Jerzy Stefan Stawinski. The narrator gives us no illusions: these people are about to die. How they go about doing so is the heart of the matter. Wajda employs detailed settings and impressive battle sequences. His camera wanders throughout, utilizing long pans that evoke the scope of the tragedy. Noir-like visuals are the tone of choice again; Carol Reed’s The Third Man is evoked more than once, but this is far more disturbing, and certainly devoid of cuckoo-clock speeches.

This ensemble cast is stunning. Their desperation is palpable on screen, accompanied by a wonderful sense of humanity; like the rambunctious, heady youths of A Generation, the small moments of joy are exploited, made all the more precious by their stunning contrast to the darkness of death. For instance, a composer (Wladyslaw Sheybal), certainly an unlikely companion for a group of soldiers, provides music for the broken men and women upon finding a piano; when they enter the sewers, he comments on the tunnel’s wonderful acoustics before quotes from Dante consume him. Despite some brief bits of respite, this is one of the most devastating films I have seen, filled with haunting images.


Subtitles:English – Chinese (idx.sub)

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