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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Polish way....
An indescribably wrenching war tragedy depicting the destruction of a group of freedom fighters in the ruins of Warsaw in the last year of WW II.
A year after the Warsaw ghetto is crushed, the Polish resistance, learning that Soviet armies are approaching the city and that the allies have landed in Normandy, order the long-awaited uprising against the Nazis. The...
Published on February 28, 2001 by Glenn R. Urbanas

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Kanal
Kanal fascinates me as one of the best war movies ever made. Each character shares a tragic story of bravery, cowardice, betrayal, and sacrifice. However, this video copy was disappointing. There was hardly any sound, even with the volume at the highest setting. Granted, the movie is in Polish and I had to rely on subtitles, but there is more to communication than...
Published on October 18, 2012 by shawnmartin


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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Polish way...., February 28, 2001
By 
Glenn R. Urbanas (Richmond Hill, New York USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Kanal [VHS] (VHS Tape)
An indescribably wrenching war tragedy depicting the destruction of a group of freedom fighters in the ruins of Warsaw in the last year of WW II.
A year after the Warsaw ghetto is crushed, the Polish resistance, learning that Soviet armies are approaching the city and that the allies have landed in Normandy, order the long-awaited uprising against the Nazis. The battle goes on for 63 days while Stalin halts his army in the suburbs to allow the SS to systematically eliminate the last Polish patriots.
The film depicts the last few days of the uprising. Wajda introduces the varied men and women who make up one resistance group - their ambitions, their loves, their individuality, their vitality, in a context of extreme stress. After a heroic defense of their district, the survivors are ordered into the sewers - the 'Kanal' - to escape the pocket in which they've become trapped. Their captain knows they are doomed yet hopes to save at least the company records for posterity. Before descending, he stoically shares a last cigarette with another group leader. 'You know this fight is pointless, don't you?' 'Yeah... it's the Polish way.'
The second half of the film depicts their final trial of courage in the sewers - where a subterranean Passion and an anonymous Golgotha awaits them.
As the fighters, one by one, slip into a manhole behind a street barricade, they leave behind the rear guard - a twelve year old boy wearing boots way too big for him who cooly checks his rifle in preparation for his solitary defense of this last barrier. Beyond the pile of bricks and furniture a Tiger tank lurches inexorably forward like a threshing machine.
This film manages to scorch a lasting hole in one's soul.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most powerful movies I've seen in 30 years., March 29, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Kanal [VHS] (VHS Tape)
I first saw this movie 30 years ago--and feared looking at the video because I though it might not be as great as I remembered it. It's even better. Powerful tales of how peoplel change, for better or worse, under great adversity. Though many of the people come to bleak ends, the movie is not depressing or blackhearted. It's greatest moral lesson, for me, is that courage must be coupled with wide-eyed realism and stamina when the odds are against you. The image that has stayed with me for 30 years: the woman helping the wounded, feverish man through the sewer who reminds him that he's walking through shit and to keep on going when he begins to hallucinate about how beautiful things are.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Striking Film, August 30, 2004
By 
R. Albin (Ann Arbor, Michigan United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Kanal [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Kanal focuses on a small group of Polish resistance fighters during the Warsaw uprising of 1944. Intended to last for a few days and to enable the Soviet Army to enter Warsaw, the uprising lasted for weeks while the Red Army did little to assist the Poles and was eventually crushed by the Germans. This film is based on an actual episode of the uprising, the escape from encirclement of a significant number of resistance fighters by fleeing through the sewers of Warsaw. Wajda follows a company of fighters into the sewers and explores their disparate fates. In Wajda's hands, this episode becomes a metaphor for the whole Polish experience in WWII; brutal, valiant, deadly, profoundly humiliating but characterized by an unceasing pursuit of hope. With fine cinematography and excellent acting, this is a gripping film.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the giants war films in any age!, August 20, 2004
This review is from: Kanal (DVD)
Kanal is a grim , sad and powerful drama of Polish patriots who use the servers of Warsaw in an attempt to escape from the Nazis during the uprising of 1944 .

In the middle of this unbeatable tragedy you can watch different voices and attitudes . The somber pianist playing Chopin , and other characters literally struggled for this opressive atmosphere . Wajda made his masterpiece , unrelieved in intensity and fierce .

A thousand carats gem . Disturbing and haunting work of the polish cinema .
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Crawling through the sewers seeking freedom, November 24, 2003
This review is from: Kanal (DVD)
Although the film is depressing, it is worth watching. One gains an idea of the conditions of Poland during the war and how the Poles tried to fight back against overwhelming odds. The film itself is very dark, with much of it taking place in the sewers.
In this film, a band of Polish soldiers is ordered to retreat through the sewers. Giving up their holding is disappointing to the men, but they have little choice because they lack the weapons and reinforcements to hold their position any longer. The sewers are a maze in which the soldiers try to find their way to freedom.
"Kanal" (1957) is directed by Andrzej Wajda. This Polish film is in black-and-white, 96 minutes long, and has optional English subtitles.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars possibly greatest war film ever, July 28, 2006
This review is from: Kanal (DVD)
I think Andrzej Wajda is overrated (personally, I think Kazimierz Kutz is the best among contemporary Polish directors), but for my money this is the best war film ever made. Perhaps the reason is that the camera work was done by Kutz (spelled "Kuc" in the credits), as (at least according to the story I've heard) Wajda was too delicate to actually go down in the sewers (yes, the excrement spattered on the faces of the actors is real; those are real sewers). The despair portrayed as each of these young people moves toward his or her inevitable death is relentless (though the film almost never depicts the actual moment of death), and the fact that we are told in the very first moments of the film what fate awaits them certainly does not spoil the effect. In an era when propagandistic cliches about the Germans were practically de rigueur in Polish cinema, the artistry of the film is demonstrated in one of the final scenes, when a young man emerges from the sewer and is disarmed by a German soldier; the soldier does not scream or behave like a brute, but instead behaves in as calm and civilized a manner as if he were simply taking a prisoner of war in accordance with the rules of the Geneva Convention. (In fact, according to what I've read about what happened after the Warsaw Uprising was finally crushed, when the Polish soldiers were disarmed they were indeed often treated with respect and sometimes even saluted by the German soldiers.) The final scene is possibly the most chilling of all, as one officer, having endured the ordeal of the journey through the city's sewers but learning that some young fighters have been left behind (and are almost certainly already dead), goes back down into the sewers to find them, pulling the manhole cover back over his head ...
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bleak, harrowing, depressing, tragic.... dignifying nonetheless, September 7, 2005
By 
Leszek Strzelecki (Beltsville, MD United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Kanal (DVD)
Andrzej Wajda's "Kanal" is a true cinematographic masterpiece both in substance and in form.

In substance, for it tells the truth of the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 to the degree perhaps unmatched before and since. If the complexity of the event itself were not enough challenge, Andrzej Wajda tells this story in an unambiguous opposition to the official "truth" as maintained by the communist authorities then in power. And this is what impresses me most. For we must remember that Wajda created this film in 1956/1957 in Poland under the communist rule and Soviet domination. Although by then the worst of the Stalinist excesses were the matter of past and Poland - briefly - enjoyed considerable liberalization and ease of censorship, the essence of the political system with its Party control of all aspects of public life was still very much intact.

And the official interpretation of the Warsaw Uprising was anything but positive. This was the subject best left in complete silence as non-event. Obviously, it could not have been erased from the collective memory; the ruins of Warsaw, the tens of thousands of dead (more than a quarter million Varsovians perished to be exact), and those who survived were all too conscious witnesses to the harrowing tragedy that occurred just twelve years prior. But to censure, criticize, condemn, to denounce, and to deplore - yes, they very much could do it. And they did. According to the official interpretation, thus, the Home Army was not the largest and bravest underground resistance movement of patriots fighting the Nazi occupiers. They were Nazi collaborators, they were anti-socialist fanatics and renegades hostile to the Red Army, Soviet Union and everything that was deemed progressive and just. The invectives and persecutions went on. The Home Army resistance fighters were "the enemies of the people".

Andrzej Wajda portrays the soldiers of the Home Army as normal people, "just like us", who had their dreams, wanted to live their lives in peace, longed for love and fun... But they were also patriots, they were courageous and they fought for the right cause. They failed and Wajda also shows why. Not bluntly - that was impossible - he uses metaphors and symbols. But he leaves no doubt what was the Polish predicament. One of the final scenes is very telling: two of the soldiers, Caravel and Daisy, separated from the rest of the group, after long trek trough the sewers finally reach the end of the tunnel. They can see the river and the other bank where freedom (and the Red Army) awaits them... only to realize that the exit is barred. There is no freedom at the end. This episode is a metaphor for the whole Polish experience during World War II. After being "liberated" from the bloody German oppression, Poland has fallen to the Soviet domination.

"Kanal" is equally a masterpiece in form. Nothing is overplayed, the actors play in a very controlled, yet natural way, tempo of the film is consistent, photography very realistic, light contrasting exactly the way it must have been in reality, the music adequately illustrative.

While praising the film for its mastery, I cannot say the same about the disc itself. Poor picture and sound transfer, as if the publisher was unaware of the technological achievements of the last decade and on top of that practically no additional features. This film virtually screams for the director's commentary and interviews with other, still alive, creators of the film. Without it much of the symbolism may be lost on the American viewer not necessarily well versed in the history of contemporary Poland. For these reasons, I think, the Criterion's box-set edition of all three War classics (also "Generation" and "Ashes and Diamonds") would be likely a better choice.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captures the Subterranean Component of the Foredoomed and Betrayed Warsaw Uprising, August 9, 2007
This review is from: Kanal (DVD)
I first saw Wajda's classic film while visiting Poland decades ago. Intended for an informed Polish audience, it doesn't provide much historical context. For this reason, I include an introduction for the benefit of the non-Polish viewer.

As the Red Army was about the drive the Germans out of Poland, the Polish Underground (AK) came out in open warfare against the Germans (Operation Burza, or Tempest). The AK seized several cities from the Germans in eastern Poland prior to the arrival of Soviet troops.

But Poland had already been betrayed by Churchill and Roosevelt in the events leading up to and including Teheran. The Soviets had no interest in respecting Polish sovereignty and feared no consequences for violating the same. No sooner had the eastern Polish cities been freed than the AK was disarmed and its leaders either shot by the NKVD or shipped to Siberian concentration camps.

Then came Warsaw's turn--only much worse. The Red Army was on the eastern outskirts of Warsaw. The Uprising was launched, intended for a three-day fight. It turned into a 63-day agony. The Red Army stood fast...and stood...and stood. It wouldn't move again for six months. The Soviets wanted the Germans to complete the dirty work of destroying the flower of Polish resistance.

The use of sewers for transport of goods and people had been pioneered and developed some 16 months earlier during the Polish Underground's assistance to the Jewish Ghetto Uprising. During the Polish uprising, as sections of Warsaw fell to the vastly more powerful German forces, the only way out was through the sewers. Wajda's dramatic film captures the drama of the evacuation of Polish fighters and civilians through the sewers of Warsaw. The evacuees not only had to contend with sewage and sewer gasses, but also German booby traps. One scene shows the disarming of a trap consisting of a wired network of German "potato masher" grenades.

The taking of POWs by Germans needs clarification. At first, during the Uprising, captured soldiers and civilians were summarily killed. Tens of thousands of unarmed Polish civilians were systematically murdered by the Germans at Wola alone. But then the Germans promised to spare civilians and to afford POW status to the captured combatants. This was no sudden discovery of humanitarianism towards the Slavic untermenschen. The Germans realized that the Poles would never surrender as long as their deaths were inevitable in any case. Also the Germans, realizing that they would likely lose the war, wanted to set a precedent of captured guerillas being afforded POW status in the event of future German guerilla warfare. Finally, there was the specter of postwar war-crimes trials, and the belated need for good German behavior.

Nevertheless, the foregoing considerations didn't stop the Germans from burning and blowing up Warsaw's historic buildings after the Uprising. The Red Army waited outside Warsaw for another three months after the surrender of the Uprising to give the Germans ample time to do this. Scarcely any habitable buildings in Warsaw remained.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Last Days of Warsaw Resistance., October 5, 2009
By 
This review is from: Kanal (DVD)
Andrzej Wajda is one of the best Pole filmmaker.
He has delivered more than 50 movies, many of them multi-awarded and with critic's acclaim. His beginnings were under very restricted conditions in his native Poland, low budget and censored thematic. Even thou he managed to create powerful art pieces.
Only as a sample we may mention: the poetical and stark "The Birch Wood" (1970); Oscar nominated "The Promised Land" (1975); Cannes Golden Palm nominated "Without Anesthesia" (1978) and "Danton" (1983) Cesar Award.

"Kanal" (1957) is a poignant & realistic war drama; it was awarded with Cannes' Jury Special Prize and nominated for the Golden Palm. It is also the second film in Wadja's War trilogy, "A generation" (1955) and "Ashes and Diamonds" (1958).
It is filmed in black & white, with preciosity illumination, due to Jerzy Lipman, in the staged underground sewers of occupied and demolished Warsaw, where the last soldiers of the Polish Home Army take refuge, giving an oppressive and claustrophobic sensation to the viewer.
The story depicts the last 48 hours of Resistance's company, in September 1944, when the Germans were eradicating the last struggling pouches.
A residual group of the former company enters the sewers (kanal in polish) and gets lost and separated in smaller groups. Each of them is followed to their bitter end.

There are some material drawbacks in the film, mostly referred to tanks representation, they are seen from some distance but they obviously are not very accurate. Nevertheless, as a compensation, the strange Goliath remote controlled tracked mine that were effectively used by Germans to demolish Polish strongpoint is correctly depicted.

Wajda defied the communist system showing the anathematized uprising deviously evading censorship.

Playacting is excellent with Teresa Izewska (BFTA nominee for this film), Tadeusz Janczar and Wienczyslaw Glinski (who won Best Actor prizes in 1959 and 1964 for other performances), as the best in a compact group of artists.

The screenplay is due to Jerzy Stefan Stawiñski who was a former member of the Polish Home Army and experienced the sewers odyssey himself.

It is a great movie recommended for history buffs, but also to anyone that wants to see a human drama. Do not miss it!

Reviewed by Max Yofre.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Kanal, October 18, 2012
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This review is from: Kanal (DVD)
Kanal fascinates me as one of the best war movies ever made. Each character shares a tragic story of bravery, cowardice, betrayal, and sacrifice. However, this video copy was disappointing. There was hardly any sound, even with the volume at the highest setting. Granted, the movie is in Polish and I had to rely on subtitles, but there is more to communication than just words. I missed the emotion in the voice, and missed the ambiance created by the sound effects. Also the picture quality in the kanals seemed poorer than I had remembered, keeping me in near darkness. Kanal is a great movie, but this video's quality was disappointing.
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Kanal
Kanal by Andrzej Wajda (DVD - 2003)
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