Kanal (1956): Wajda’s WWII Drama, Part of Trilogy

Poland (Film Polski)

“Kanal,” the second, politically significant and emotionally stirring feature of Polish director Andrzei Wajda, takes place during the final days of the Warsaw ghetto uprising in 1944.

In a warning to the viewers, a title card states: “Watch these people closely, because these are the last hours of their lives.” Indeed, three groups of Polish citizens, no longer able to hold off the German enemy, withdraw to the city’s “Kanaly,” its sewer system.

Though we know the tragic results, we observe the denizen as they try to escape and live an underground existence free from the oppression and lost ideals of their youth.

Using minute graphic details, Wajda shows pains and suffering, and also betrayal, death, and suicide in a poignant tale that at once serves as an historical record and as a warning that it can happen again.

Both symbolic and literal, the image of sunlight filtered through the metal grate into the sewer is one of the most indelible sights to be seen in any war film, and will linger in your memory for a long, long time.

One of the most tense and intense war films, “Kanal” is part of a WWII trilogy that includes the equally excellent “A Generation” and “Ashes and Diamonds.”


Produced by Stanislaw Adler
Directed by Andrzei Wajda
Screenplay: Jerzy Stefan Stawinski, based on his short story
Camera: Jerrzy Lipman
Editor: Halina Nawrocka
Music: Jan Krenx
Art Direction: Roman Man
Costume: Jerzy Szeski