Thursday, August 18, 2011

Kanal - Movie Review

Watched 'Kanal' a Polish movie of 1956 vintage. It is made in the time of the Warsaw uprising where a group of Home Resistance men try to flee the oncoming Germans who have taken control of Poland. Their only route of escape is through the city's sewers (kanal).

The movie is about a small group of men, some army and some civilian, led by Commandant Zadra. As they are surrounded from all sides they take to the sewers to escape. In the sewers they are led by Daisy, a girl (she apparently knows the sewers well) who is in love with one of the injured soldiers. She helps him and falls back as the rest of the group stumbles on without knowing where they are headed. As they move further on they find people running from the opposite side, panicking because they believe the Germans have let in nerve gas into the sewer. The group splits up in the dark - Zadra resolutely leading on despite not knowing the place, the second in command and his new lover the messenger girl, Daisy and her injured lover, a civilian composer who goes mad.

Some die while trying to escape from sheer terror of walking the sewers, Daisy's boyfriend is weak and falls down from his injury and probably dies, the second in command walks up to find his other associates already captured and killed. Only Zadra and his assistant make it out in a safe place. But when Zadra orders his man to call the other men out, his assistant tells him that he had been lying - all the men had fallen behind long ago. Angered at the betrayal, Zadra shoots his assistant dead, and in a mad gesture, for the only thing that seems sacred for him, his sense of duty to his men, he gives up his freedom and steps back into the sewers to find his men. It would seem improbable that he would find any alive. Daisy would be the one who would escape the sewers, strong and she is, and knowing her way as well. But what the death of her love does to her, one does not know.

Kanal is shot is black and white. Director Adrzek Wajda rarely shows the Germans, he shows only the fear and the claustrophobia in the sewers. The film is based on a sewer survivor Stawiriski and was the first of a trilogy of war movies that Wajda made. Set in September 1944, it captures the horror of the second world war as the Poles experienced it starkly.

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