DVD - 2003 | Polish
Average Rating:
Rate this:
Begins on the 56th day of the Warsaw Uprising against the Nazis during World War II. A ragtag group of trained and untrained Resistance fighters hold on to the front line. They try to live a relatively normal life, and even find time to play the piano. They achieve small victories, but must retreat into the sewers in order to survive.
Publisher: Sarasota, FL : Polart Distribution (USA) : Distributed by Facets Video, 2003.
Branch Call Number: DVD FEATURE Kanal
Characteristics: 1 videodisc (92 min.) :,sd., b&w ;,4 3/4 in.
Alternative Title: Canal


From Library Staff

JCLIanH Oct 26, 2018

A war story set during the Warsaw Uprising set almost entirely in a sewer. It's a claustrophobic and horrific as that previous sentence implies, and a powerful piece of filmmaking.

From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

JCLIanH Oct 26, 2018

A war story set during the Warsaw Uprising set almost entirely in a sewer. It's a claustrophobic and horrific as that previous sentence implies, and a powerful piece of filmmaking.

One of the weirdest, most disorienting movies I've ever seen. Still totally worth your time, just prepare for unmatched realism, griminess, and a Polish history lesson.

Sep 03, 2014

The struggle for survival brings out the truth in people; selfish and desperate animals. We’re first introduced to a group of frontline resistance fighters, mostly comprised of ordinary people. When their battle is deemed an impossible victory, orders are given to escape through the sewers. It’s here the resistance betrays their humanity as they stumble through pitch black lighting and puddles of sludge. As something as simple as daylight becomes a miracle, the group separates and each person begins to doubt their chances of survival.

Acclaimed Polish filmmaker Andrzej Wajda thrusts the audience into the sewers alongside the characters. Our presence among these people in this horrific environment is what forces us to plead for hope and become invested in this gripping story. The darkness of the sewers is only brought back by the limited supply of illumination; candles that flicker off frequently; engulfing the characters in the underground darkness. The visuals are striking and can convey the grotesque stench of excrement which the characters stumble through. These abysmal conditions weigh on us in the same vein as the people depicted on the screen. This evokes our pure sympathy.

But even after piling this tragedy onto this group of previously likeable people Kanal still feels realistic and never comes off as manipulative. The monstrous development in the sewers’ prisoners feels natural as they abandon their values. A previously brave and heroic solider begs for the woman who loves him to abandon him in the sewers. A couple of soldiers witness the death of a fellow man and continue trekking through the muddy water; showing no signs of grieving. The assistant to the resistance’s commander deceives him into the belief that the rest of the group is following them close behind. In the end, Andrzej Wajda provides us with a testament of brutal transformation brought on by the horrors of war.

Kanal is as horrific a drama as it is a suspenseful thriller. The stakes are high (life or a slow death in a flood of sewer water). In fact, it even resembles an early Hitchcock film, such as Lifeboat . Both detail intense struggles for survival and then inner changes brought out by people in such close proximity to death. As a thriller, the main difference between Kanal and Lifeboat is the country of production. Lifeboat was produced in Hollywood and displays a very American style of filmmaking which in itself confirms a happy ending. But being a Polish film, the production company provided Andrzej Wajda with free reign as an auteur. The distribution provided him with the right to bring any character he pleases to a tragic death, since the arthouse audience would be considered too sophisticated to be outraged by tragedy on screen; only moved. Wajda crafts a classic film where the suspense is genuine. The audience has no clue whether the characters will live or die.

The dark abyss we trek through is represented as a hell on Earth. One of the resistance’s soldiers is a pianist; untrained for the harsh world of warfare. When he comes to the realization that he will soon meet his demise, the pianist quotes Dante, a quotation was written as a reflection upon Hell. These words are relevant to the artist’s life as he too steps through the depths of hell. In the dark pit synonymous with hell, each character gives into their fate. They’re a squad of lost souls; marching towards freedom but finding the precise opposite. But in the end, what are they more than soon to be forgotten casualties of war?

Apr 26, 2014

This is a 1957 96-minute Polish film about the Warsaw Uprising against the Nazis.
A ragtag group of trained and untrained resistance fighters hold the frontline.
They achieve many small victories, but must retreat into the sewers.
It dipicts the dignity of ordinary people in the face of unspeakable horror.
In dark underground pits, gorgeous women struggle in rivers of sludge.
The darkness itself weighs down heavily, but is punctuated by flickering candles and torches as well as
brutal bursts of light from the world above.
All these elements create unforgettable compositions.
It is a hallucinating documentary-style war drama.


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at My Library

To Top