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Directed by Andrzej Wajda
Produced by Zespół Filmowy Kadr
Written by Jerzy Stefan Stawiński
Starring Teresa Iżewska
Tadeusz Janczar
Wieńczysław Gliński
Tadeusz Gwiazdowski
Stanisław Mikulski
Emil Karewicz
Vladek Sheybal
Teresa Berezowska
Distributed by Zespół Filmowy Kadr
Release dates 1956
Running time 95 min
Language Polish

Kanał (Polish pronunciation: [ˈkanaw], Sewer) is a 1956 Polish film directed by Andrzej Wajda. It was the first film made about the Warsaw Uprising, telling the story of a company of Home Army resistance fighters escaping the Nazi onslaught through the city's sewers. Kanał is the second film of Wajda's War Trilogy, preceded by A Generation and followed by Ashes and Diamonds.


It is 25 September 1944, during the last days of the Warsaw Uprising. Lieutenant Zadra leads a unit of 43 soldiers and civilians to a new position amidst the ruins of the Mokotów district.

The composer Michał manages to telephone his wife and child in the German-controlled portion of the city. After a few words, she tells him that the Germans are clearing the building and that they are coming for her. Then the line goes dead. The next morning, 23-year-old Officer Cadet Korab apologizes after walking into a room to find the second in command, Lieutenant Mądry, and messenger girl Halinka in bed. (Halinka later reveals that Mądry is her first lover.) A German attack is beaten off, but Korab is wounded.

Surrounded by the enemy, Zadra is ordered to retreat through the sewers to the downtown district. Now down to 27 fit to travel, including Korab, they slog through the filth.

Daisy, their guide, asks Zadra to let her help Korab, claiming that the others can find their way easily enough. Zadra allows it. However, the pair fall further and further behind. When they reach the right turnoff, Korab is too weak to climb the upward sloping tunnel, so they rest for a while. He notices some graffiti on the opposite wall, but cannot quite make it out. Daisy tells him it says "I love Janek", when the name is actually Jacek, Korab's first name. Afterward, she drives him on, not letting him stop. They proceed in a less taxing direction. Finally, they see sunlight. By this time, Korab is half blind and at the end of his strength. He cannot see that the exit is closed off by metal bars.[1] Daisy finally reveals her feelings for him, kissing him before telling him that he can rest for a while.

The main group follows Zadra for a while, but they become lost without Daisy. Finally, when Zadra tells Sergeant Kula to order them onward after a brief rest, they remain where they are. Kula lies and tells Zadra they are following in order to get him to keep going. Eventually, the only remaining soldier following Zadra and Kula is the mechanic Smukły.

Meanwhile, Mądry, Halinka and Michał are also on their own. Eventually, Michał loses his mind and wanders away, playing an ocarina. Upon reaching a dead end, Mądry cries out that he has somebody to live for; when Halinka asks who, he tells her he has a wife and child. She asks him to turn off his flashlight, then shoots herself. Mądry finds an exit, but when he emerges, he joins the rest of his unit as German captives. Despondent, he kneels beside the bodies of others who have apparently been executed.

Zadra, Kula, and Smukły find another exit, but it is booby trapped. Smukły disarms two German grenades, but is killed by the third and last. Zadra and Kula find themselves in a deserted part of the city. When Zadra tells Kula to bring up the rest of the men, Kula admits he lied. Enraged, Zadra shoots Kula and reluctantly heads back down for a futile search for his men.


The script was written by Jerzy Stefan Stawiński who himself survived in the sewers as a soldier of Armia Krajowa (the Polish underground resistance army) during the Warsaw Uprising. It was made by P.P. Film Polski at its production unit, Zespół Filmowy "Kadr"


Kanał earned Wajda the Special Jury Prize at the 1957 Cannes Film Festival.[2] Censorship remained strong in Poland, but the fall of the Stalinist regime of Bolesław Bierut following the death of Joseph Stalin led to a loss of control allowing the film, "showing the tragic fate of those who followed the wrong orders", as the press put it at the time,[who?] to be made. Polish critics state that the film paved the way for other films of the Polish School of filmmakers.[who?]


An original promotional poster

See also[edit]


  1. ^ This scene is referenced toward the end of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (film) (2002).
  2. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Kanał". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-02-08. 

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