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Kanal Reviews

This extremely intense and relentlessly graphic second feature from Polish filmmaker Andrzej Wajda takes place during the final days of the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. Three groups of Poles, no longer able to hold off the enemy, retreat to the city's kanaly, or sewer system. The viewer is told from the very start to "watch them closely; these are the last hours of their lives." With this pessimistic tone established, we observe them as they try to escape and live an underground existence free from the oppression and lost ideals of their lives above ground. Although we know that death awaits them, we also know that freedom from the sewers is only a relative freedom. Wajda spares the viewer nothing, showing death, betrayal, suffering, suicide, capture, and despair. Still the Poles fight on in the hope that they will see sunlight pouring into the sewer, even if it is filtered through a metal grate.