Friday, January 16, 2009
Andrzej Wajda (Poland, 1957)
Kanal is a grim, hallucinatory picture of the last days of the Polish Resistance in Warsaw. Much of the film takes place in the sewers, through which the survivors of a Partisan platoon move in an attempt to retreat to the city’s center. Like its predecessor in Wajda’s trilogy of disillusionment, A Generation, Kanal conveys a tragic and ironic sense of the purity, heroism, and love that characterized the actions of the men and women trapped in the labyrinth of Poland’s underground Resistance. Moments of romantic passion that erupt in the canal are like the waves of sewage, to be ducked in the name of survival. The apocalyptic settings offer Wajda a palette of symbolic angles, light and shadow; the film is both real and hyper-real, both war film and existential parable. Dante is brought up to date in this crawlspace from hell, where daylight and freedom would bring both life and certain death.
• Written by Jerzy Stefan Stawinski. Photographed by Jerzy Lipman. With Teresa Izewska, Tadeusz Janczar, Wienczyslaw Glinski, Tadeusz Gwiazdowski. (98 mins, In Polish with English subtitles, B&W, 35mm)