Monday 26 July 2010

Kanal (1957)

Andrzej Wajda’s masterful Kanal (1957) chronicles one day during the last gasp of the Warsaw Uprising in September 1944, following a Polish resistance group’s doomed attempt to reach the centre of the city through the only viable route: its sewers. The second part of the War Trilogy that begins with A Generation (1954) and ends with Ashes and Diamonds (1958) it is, I think, the strongest, most sustained film of the three, and perhaps my very favourite of the Wajda films that I’ve seen. Kanal has the urgency and directness of documentary - indeed, archive footage plays under the opening credits - and yet in its depths of feeling, its sensitivity to atmosphere, the terror it evokes and its singular haunting beauty, the film goes way beyond what a documentary could give us. The scenes in the sewers in the second half achieve a primal, mythic intensity; the actors' faces, looming out of the shadows in this underworld, are unforgettable. Intense, harrowing and moving, this is one of the greatest war films ever made. Or maybe just one of the greatest films, period.


  1. Certainly one of Wajda's greatest efforts!

    Speaking of the Warsaw Uprising, you probably haven't heard of this project yet:

    "City of Ruins" is a five-minute-long, painstaking digital reconstruction of a bird's-eye-view over Warsaw after the uprising. I'm sure over here it'll revive the discussion, which flares up from time to time, whether the whole thing was worth it...

  2. Interesting, thanks for the link!

    I'm currently reading a book entitled FIRST TO FIGHT: POLAND'S CONTRIBUTION TO THE ALLIED VICTORY IN WWII which my uncle lent me. The title gives you an indication of the tone, but it's fascinating nonetheless.

  3. Yep, sounds like a strong thesis right in that title...

    Just watched Sweet Rush and liked it quite a bit. I could swear you head a review up here, but I can't find it now. Did I dream this? Or maybe we talked about it on the phone, or in an e-mail, and then I thought it was a review on your blog.

  4. I didn't get around to reviewing SWEET RUSH, though we definitely discussed it. I plan to give it a second viewing sometime; will write something then. I liked it too, and think that there's alot to unpick in the movie.

    As I think I told you, I found KATYN much more satisfying second time around. (Improved translation of the subtitles helped there.)